* Army declared martial law on Tuesday, denies staging coup
* Acting PM says he is still in charge, has proposed Aug. 3
* Election Commission to discuss poll date with government,
* Anti-government protesters oppose an early election
* Pro-government "red shirts" warn of trouble if government
By Panarat Thepgumpanat
BANGKOK, May 21 Thailand's Election Commission
was due to consider on Wednesday the caretaker government's
proposal for an Aug. 3 election, as doubts grew that polls could
be held smoothly despite the imposition of martial law to calm
Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha denied Tuesday's
declaration of martial law amounted to a military coup, saying
he had acted to restore restore order and build investor
confidence. The caretaker government says it is still in charge.
Both pro- and anti-government protesters remain out in force
but the army has confined them to their separate protest sites
and there were no reports of trouble overnight.
Twenty-eight people have been killed and 700 injured since
the latest chapter in a near-decade-long power struggle between
former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the royalist
establishment flared up late last year.
The turmoil has brought the country to the brink of
recession and even raised fears of civil war.
The anti-government protesters remain implacably opposed to
an election for now. They want a "neutral" prime minister
installed to oversee electoral reforms aimed at ending the
influence of former telecommunications tycoon Thaksin.
The government, on the other hand, sees a general election
that it would likely win, given Thaksin's enduring support among
the rural and urban poor, as the best way forward.
Acting Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan, a
minister in the government of Thaksin's sister, Yingluck
Shinawatra, who took over when she was forced to step down as
prime minister by a court two weeks ago, proposed on Tuesday
that an election should be held on Aug. 3.
Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, a member of the Election
Commission, said all sides had to consider the proposal.
"The situation has changed now. We have martial law,
therefore the Election Commission, the army and the government
should talk first," Somchai told Reuters. "I can't say yet
whether an August 3 election will happen."
RED SHIRT WARNING
Anti-government protesters disrupted a Feb. 2 election that
Thaksin's loyalists looked set to win. It was later declared
Thaksin's "red shirt" activists have warned of trouble if
the caretaker government is ousted and replaced with a "neutral"
prime minister but some analysts saw that as likely despite the
threat of a backlash.
"With martial law in place, we believe violence could be
contained," Pimpaka Nichgaroon, head of research at Thanachart
Securities, wrote in a note.
Pimpaka said the main question was whether an interim
government came about through a coup or through a resolution by
the upper house Senate, Thailand's only functioning legislature.
"Any kind of interim government would be a better scenario
for Thailand than the current political deadlock with a
non-functional caretaker government."
The army has ordered 14 satellite TV channels, both pro- and
anti-government, to stop broadcasting and it has warned against
the spread of inflammatory material on social media.
Human rights groups have said the declaration of martial law
was akin to a coup.
(Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by Alan Raybould and Alex