Just months before his retirement, Thai Army chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha has taken on a responsibility he may much rather have dodged.

"Prayuth in charge," the Nation newspaper blared across its front page Wednesday, a day after the 60-year-old soldier declared martial law, putting himself at the center of a nearly decadelong political impasse.

Thursday's military coup "basically puts the lid on further conflict over the short term but leaves him holding the political ball," said Anthony Davis, a Thailand-based analyst at security consulting firm IHS-Jane's.