Martial Law in Thailand – Day 1

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Thailand’s army commander Prayuth Chan-ocha announced at 3 in the morning of Tuesday 20 May that the army had imposed martial law in all of Thailand. He made it clear that this was not a military coup – the difference being that under martial law, the constitution and the caretaker government remain intact. This distinction was crucial to avoid causing public panic or potentially violent reaction from the Redshirts UDD.

During the morning, a series of decrees were issued by the military. The first replaced the caretaker government’s Center for Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO) with a new command called Gor Or Ror Sor or, or in English, Peace and Order Maintaining Command (POMC). The following decrees imposed a range of restrictions on, among other things, media freedom. 

ScandAsia will compile here the comments and statements issued by the embassies, chambers, association related to the Scandinavian community in Thailand. Developments of a more general nature we will leave to the national media to cover.

The first embassy to be contacted this morning around 10.30 by ScandAsia was the Finnish Embassy. We made a request for an interview with Ambassador Kirsti Westphalen but the ambassador declined to comment on the developing situation.

Next, we tried to reach Swedish Ambassador Klas Molin but were told that he was in Myanmar. So we talked to Andreas Magnusson, Political Officer at the Swedish Embassy in Bangkok, who said: “We are following the latest developments in Thailand closely. Our main responsibility is keeping our government and citizens informed of the situation.”

“Our government’s response to the martial law imposed by Thai military will be in line with the European Union’s foreign policy.”

The Swedish Embassy has not updated its travel advisory for Swedish citizens at this time. The latest one warns Swedish citizens to stay away from strife-torn southernmost provinces of Thailand as well as in and around protest sites in Bangkok and surrounding provinces.

Update 14.45
Jan Eriksson, President of Thai-Swedish Chamber of Commerce, said: “We are not yet sure, what the martial law means in practical terms and what actions will be taken.”

“We can only hope that this is a step closer to more certainty, politically. Right now we see a decrease in foreign investment, and some of the business here (tourism-related) have been affected by the instability. We need a workable end-result, sooner rather later. It is damaging for both import and export when you do not a have a functioning government.”

14.55

Michael Hemniti Winther,  Danish Ambassador to Thailand, said: “We are monitoring the situation closely. Military intervention per definition gives rise to concern from a democratic perspective. So far it is only the protest sides that has been restricted. If civilians in public areas in general at some point experience restrictions, then it is of course a new situation.”

“I just gave two interviews to Radio24syv(Danish broadcast radio) this morning. Every time there are new states of emergencies enforced, we see a quick rise of interests from the Danish media. Given that we have more than 170000 people visiting Thailand every year.”
“We are in continuous dialogue with The Foreign Ministry about the official travel advice, but so far it remains as last updated.”

15.20

Marc Spiegel, President of Thai-Finnish Chamber of Commerce, said the martial law announced by the military came as a surprise to him, and that it was too early for TFCC to issue a formal statement on the developing situation in Thailand at this time.

He added that as a long-time resident in Thailand he could understand that the martial law was announced, in part, to prevent further escalation of politically-motivated violence that had taken place in the past week.

“One of the most crucial issues is whether the caretaker government had or had not been consulted before the military imposed the martial law,” Spiegel said.

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