BANGKOK - Thailand's army on Tuesday declared martial law across the crisis-gripped kingdom to restore order following months of anti-government protests that have left 28 people dead and hundreds wounded.
An announcement on military-run television said martial law had been invoked "to restore peace and order for people from all sides", stressing that the move "is not a coup".
"The public do not need to panic but can still live their lives as normal," it added.
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.
Her "Red Shirt" supporters have warned of the threat of civil war if power is handed to an unelected leader, as demanded by the opposition.
The country's embattled government was not consulted in advance about the imposition of martial law, said Paradorn Pattanatabut, chief security adviser to Prime Minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan.
"The caretaker government still exists with Niwuttumrong as caretaker prime minister. Everything is normal except the military is responsible for all national security issues," he said.
Anti-government demonstrators have vowed a "final battle" in the coming days to topple the prime minister.
Protest leaders now occupy a wing of the government headquarters, holding press conferences in an attempt to show the government lacks the authority to rule.
Troops report for duty
In a nationally televised statement, army chief General Prayut Chan-O-Cha announced that the government security agency overseeing the handling of the protests had been suspended.
"All army, air force and navy personnel should return to their respective units for duty," he added.
Under Thailand's constitution, the military has the right to declare martial law - which gives the military control of nationwide security - if urgently needed.
The move risks angering supporters of the government if it is seen as tantamount to a coup.
But the movement gave a cautious initial reaction to the news, saying that it would wait to listen to a full announcement by the army chief.