|Martial law invoked in Thailand
Thailand's army declared martial law across the deeply divided kingdom Tuesday to restore order after months of deadly anti-government protests, deploying armed troops in the capital but insisting the move was "not a coup''.
Gun-wielding soldiers, backed by a military vehicle mounted with a machine gun, were seen in the heart of the city's retail and hotel district. Troops were also positioned at television stations and the army said the media would be censored, AFP reports.
The dismissal of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra earlier this month in a controversial court ruling has sent tensions soaring in the kingdom, which has endured years of political turmoil.
"Red Shirt'' supporters of Yingluck and her brother Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed as premier in a 2006 coup, have warned of the threat of civil war if power is handed to an unelected leader, as the opposition demands.
Thailand, Southeast Asia's second-biggest economy and a key US ally, has been without a fully functioning government since December, disrupting government spending, spooking investors and deterring foreign tourists.
The country is now staring at recession according to latest growth figures this week and Japan, whose companies have some of the biggest foreign investment in Thailand, expressed its concern at the unfolding crisis.
"We have grave concerns about the situation in Thailand,'' Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters in Tokyo. "We once again strongly urge all parties concerned to act in a self-restrained manner without using violence.''
The leader of a Red Shirts protest in Bangkok said soldiers had encircled them, and the government said the military was trying to convince them to disperse.
"We have been surrounded by troops on all sides,'' rally leader Jatuporn Prompan told AFP.