Thai PM deposed in military coup


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

Thai PM deposed in military coup

Military leaders in Thailand have staged a coup, suspended the constitution and 
declared martial law.

Army chief Sonthi Boonyaratglin said the military leadership had formed a 
council for political reform and ousted the Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.

The coup leaders say the cabinet and parliament have been abolished, but power 
will be returned to the people.

Mr Thaksin cancelled a speech he was due to give at the UN. It is unclear 
whether he intends to return home.

The military said the country's stock market, banks and schools would remain 
closed on Wednesday.

BBC World, CNN and other international TV news channels have been taken off the 
air, while Thai stations have broadcast footage of the royal family and 
patriotic songs.

'Temporary measure'

In the capital, Bangkok, soldiers seized government offices and took up 
strategic positions around the city.

In a broadcast on all Thai television channels, the leadership of the armed 
forces said it had taken control of Bangkok, declared nationwide martial law and
ordered all troops to return to their bases.

"We ask for the co-operation of the public and ask your pardon for the 
inconvenience," the announcement said.

A spokesman for the coup leaders, Gen Prapart Sakuntanak, said the seizure would
be temporary and power would be "returned to the people" soon.

The military announced that regional commanders would take charge of their areas
outside Bangkok.

It ordered provincial governors and heads of government agencies to report to 
them in the coming hours.

The rebels - who said they were led by Gen Sonthi - visited the king and 
declared loyalty to him.

The highly revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej has made no comment about whether he 
backs the takeover attempt.

There has been pressure growing on the prime minister to resign, including from 
groups close to King Bhumibol, following a political impasse in which April's 
general election was declared invalid.

But the BBC's Jonathan Head in Bangkok reports that while many people wanted Mr 
Thaksin out of office, there will be unease about the way this has happened, and
people will be looking to see whether the king has supported the coup.

Opposition Senator Mechai Viravaidya welcomed Mr Thaksin's departure, despite 
doubts about the methods used.

"I'm delighted he's gone," he said. "It would have been great if he had resigned
voluntarily, but apparently he was too stubborn. But at least it's better than 
an assassination."

Another opponent of the prime minister, Chirmsak Pinthong, suggested that Mr 
Thaksin's continuation in power would have been even worse.

"I would say that nothing is worse than what Thaksin has done," he said. 
"Thaksin has already carried out what I would call a silent coup, because he 
called the country as a dictatorship by using money in a corrupt way.

"Nothing is worse than the Thaksin regime."

'Following orders'

Our correspondent says the coup is a surprising development for a country that 
had been viewed as one of Asia's leading democracies, and events in Thailand 
will have repercussions throughout the region.

The streets in Bangkok were quiet on Tuesday night. People were calm for the 
most part, correspondents say, curious about what was going on, but some said 
they were scared.

Traffic moved through the streets normally and in the bars of the city centre, 
foreign tourists seemed oblivious to what was going on.

One soldier on a tank said: "We don't know why we're here, we've been told to 
say nothing. We're just following orders."

Russell Miles emailed the BBC News website to say there were troops "dressed in 
Swat-style gear strolling around" near Government House, and "a tense, but 
fairly controlled atmosphere".

He said: "We saw a group of blokes bundling a cameraman and another chap into a 
van. We are taking photos, but not out in the open."

The EU's Finnish presidency expressed "grave concern" at events, and the US 
called on Thais "to resolve their political differences in a peaceful manner".

It is the first coup attempt in 15 years in a country where they used to be 
commonplace. There were 17 of them between 1932 and 1991.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2006/09/20 00:43:46 GMT


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