Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Thailand Military Consolidates Grip

The military in firm control after Tuesday's power grab.

The military leader who led the bloodless coup has justified the takeover, saying it was aimed at ending the ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's efforts to undermine the country's democratic institutions.

In the country's first coup in 15 years, Army Chief General Sonthi Boonyaratglin on Tuesday led a rapid, well-orchestrated overthrow while Thaksin was away in New York.

No shots were fired during the nightime operation which started late on Tuesday19th September.

Residents of the Thai capital awoke on Wednesday to the unfamiliar sight of soldiers on street corners and tanks blocking off the government district.

The city of more than 10 million people was calm and most residents appeared unfazed by the dramatic turn of events.

Nearly 20 tanks, with yellow ribbons tied around their barrels, cordoned off the Royal Palace, Royal Plaza, army headquarters and Thaksin's office at Government House.

Tight controls

The new regime has put the country under martial law and declared a provisional authority loyal to the Thai king, ordering government offices, banks, schools and the stock market to close for the day. Television and radio stations have also been seized.

Gatherings of more than five people have been banned across the country.

The coup leaders also have slapped strict controls on foreign and domestic media, state television announced on Wednesday.

"We would like to reaffirm that we don't have any intention to rule the country and will return power to the Thai people as soon as possible"

In a nationwide television address, Army Chief General Sonthi Boonyaratglin said the coup had taken place "in order to resolve the conflict and bring back normalcy and harmony among people.

"We would like to reaffirm that we don't have any intention to rule the country and will return power to the Thai people as soon as possible."

Sonthi was flanked by the three armed forces chiefs and the head of the national police force.

He repeated earlier statements that the newly created Council of Administrative Reform carried out the coup to end intensifying conflicts in Thai society, corruption in the government, insults to the revered Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and what the general called Thaksin's attempts to destroy democratic institutions.

Thaksin's fate

There was uncertainty about Thaksin's plans after he cancelled a scheduled address to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday.

Thaksin is expected to visit London to meet his family

Surapong Suebwonglee, Thaksin's official government spokesman, said: "We have to accept what happened. We are not coming back soon."

Thais who trickled out onto the capital's streets overnight appeared to welcome the surprise turn of events as a necessary climax to months of demands for Thaksin to resign amid allegations of corruption, electoral irregularities and a worsening Muslim insurgency.

Many people were surprised, but few in Bangkok seemed disappointed.

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