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Thailand Army Declares Martial Law After Unrest
Armed troops and military vehicles topped with machine guns have taken up positions in central Bangkok after the army declared martial law across Thailand.
Soldiers have been seen in the city's retail and hotel district, and the army commandeered television stations to broadcast their message to the nation.
They also surrounded the national police headquarters in Bangkok and banned protest marches.
Military chiefs have denied staging a coup and claim the army is trying to restore order after six months of political unrest that has left Thailand without a fully functioning government.
Soldiers are taking charge of public security to protect against any more violent street protests, said army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha.
Hundreds of people have been injured and 28 have died in clashes over the last six months.
General Prayuth said: "We are concerned this violence could harm the country's security in general. Then, in order to restore law and order to the country, we have declared martial law.
"I'm asking all those activist groups to stop all activities and cooperate with us in seeking a way out of this crisis."
Protesters have been told to stay where they are and the country's media will also be censored, said the army, who told the Thai people not to panic.
Thailand's interim government, which had not been informed of the military plan, is to hold an emergency meeting at a safe house to discuss the crisis.
Sky's Jonathan Samuels said: "The army believes the police can no longer handle the security so now we are seeing plenty of soldiers on the streets.
"It said it's come in to stop any more bloodshed, but of course there are many that say it may have the opposite effect."
Thailand has been in a state of upheaval since 2006, but the latest unrest began in November when anti-government protesters tried to oust former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
The protesters railed against a government amnesty bill they said was designed to help former leader Thaksin Shinawatra - Yingluck's brother - avoid being jailed for corruption.
Yingluck Shinawatra was finally removed earlier this month for abuse of power - along with nine ministers.
TYingluck YYYYYUYYYYYYYYYYYYHowever, the move has done little to dampen disquiet against the caretaker government.
The army's surprise announcement comes a day after acting prime minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan refused to step down.
Regional neighbours have already expressed concern at the army's seizing of power, with Japan "strongly urging" self-restraint and calling for "sincere negotiations".