Thailand’s prime minister has urged the military to support efforts to set a date for national elections, posing an early test for the generals after martial law was declared on Tuesday. Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan, the prime minister who has led the caretaker administration for less than a fortnight, said he had made contact with the generals on “pressing issues we need to discuss, including elections and reform”. He is pushing for Thailand to go to the polls on August 3, two weeks after his pre-martial law request for a July 20 vote. The armed forces say they imposed martial law to prevent further violence in the six-month-old political crisis, rather than to assume political power. But critics accuse them of executing a de facto slow-motion coup that has seen the military take television stations off the air and attempt to shut down political debate.
Chaturon Chaisang, education minister, said in a Facebook post that martial law was not an answer to what are “fundamentally political problems that must be solved through political processes under democracy . . . not military or security measures”.
Commanders insist this is not a coup. The intervention raises the stakes as establishment-backed street protesters push to install an unelected junta to rule Thailand.
It comes after six months of violence that has paralysed government and damaged southeast Asia’s second-largest economy. However, illustrating how on-off political turmoil is becoming part of the everyday fabric of Bangkok, working life continued as normal in much of the city on Wednesday.