US ‘very concerned’ as Thai army declares martial law

The State Department said Monday it was “very concerned about the deepening political crisis in Thailand” amid reports that the military there had declared martial law, in a move that has some observers worried about a possible coup d'etat.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States was “monitoring developments closely” and urged all parties to “respect democratic principles,” including the freedom of speech.

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“The United States firmly believes all parties must work together to resolve differences through dialogue and find a way forward,” Psaki said. “This development underscores the need for elections to determine the will of the Thai people. “

Armed troops entered private television stations across Bangkok to announce the martial law declaration, the Associated Press reported. 

The move comes after six months of anti-government demonstrations that have gripped the nation. On Monday, acting prime minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan — who has been heavily criticized by protesters — said he would not step down, resulting in a constitutional standoff.

According to the wire service, Thailand’s army has staged 11 coups since the end of monarchy rule there in 1932, including most recently in 2006 after former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted amid charges of corruption.

But an army official told the AP that they did not intend to overthrow the government.

“This is only to provide safety to the people and the people can still carry on their lives as normal,” the official said.

The State Department urged the Army to stand by that promise.

“We expect the Army to honor its commitment to make this a temporary action to prevent violence, and to not undermine democratic institutions,” Psaki said.