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20 Sep 06,, 17:05
Thai Army Leaders Depose Prime Minister

Move Follows Protests Against Thaksin, Who Was in New York for U.N. Assembly

By Ron Corben
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, September 20, 2006; Page A01

BANGKOK, Sept. 20 -- Thai army leaders deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a longtime ally of President Bush, using tanks and soldiers to seize the capital Tuesday night without firing a shot. The coup was the first in 15 years in a country where many people believed that military seizures of power were a thing of the past.

Thaksin was in New York, attending the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, when soldiers surrounded Government House, his office, at about 10:30 p.m. He declared a state of emergency by telephone, but his announcement, carried on television, was cut off midway and had no discernible effect as army units seized key facilities in a light rain.

Thaksin canceled a planned address to the General Assembly. On Tuesday night, he remained secluded in a New York hotel, with some sources saying he would leave for an undisclosed location, probably not Thailand. Reports online in The Nation, a Thai newspaper, speculated that Thaksin might join family members in London, where he owns property. By Wednesday some of his government ministers had been detained while others had fled the country or stayed abroad.

Bush has made the spread of democratic rule abroad a key theme of his administration. It remained unclear what response the U.S. government would take to the overthrow of an elected figure whom Bush called a "very capable leader" in 2003. In recent months, White House officials have been distancing themselves from Thaksin.

"We look to the Thai people to resolve their political differences in a peaceful manner and in accord with the principles of democracy and rule of law," said Ken Bailes, spokesman for the U.S. State Department.

In Thailand, announcements on state-run television signed by the coup leader, Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, commander in chief of the army, said that martial law had been declared across Thailand and that the 1997 constitution had been revoked.

On Wednesday, in his first public appearance since seizing power, Sonthi asked for the public's support and declared the coup was necessary to end serious conflicts within Thai society that Thaksin had created, the Associated Press reported.

"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," he said a brief television address. He was flanked by the three armed forces chiefs and the head of the national police force.

The stock exchange was to be closed Wednesday, along with schools, banks and government offices. Thailand's army banned political gatherings of more than five people, the Reuters news agency reported. The cable TV operator shut down broadcasting of international channels. Local TV stations showed images of tanks.

Bangkok's streets were mostly empty and calm prevailed early in the day.

Thaksin, a former senior police official who built a fortune in the telecommunications industry, has faced street protests for much of the year over allegations of corruption, abuse of power and a bungling response to a Muslim insurgency. Many military officers contended that he was trying to interfere with promotions and postings in the armed forces.

Opponents of the prime minister cheered the coup; some of them turned out in the early Tuesday morning to greet soldiers sitting atop tanks parked on Bangkok streets. Thaksin is widely popular in rural Thailand, where most of the population lives, and there was little immediate response from those communities Sonthi and other coup leaders are close to Thailand's deeply revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej. What role, if any, the monarch played in the takeover was unknown. Some of the coup soldiers sported cloths of yellow, the royal color, and gun barrels in an attempt to signal they were acting in support of the king.

Reports said coup leaders had met with the king in his palace. In past political crises, a few words from the king, the world's longest-reigning monarch, have dramatically turned the course of events.
Panitan Wattanayagorn, a political scientist, said he had been fearful in the initial hours that troops loyal to Thaskin might fight back. No such opposition appeared.

Army TV gave the first sign that something was afoot when it began broadcasting patriotic songs and images of the king.

The army spokesman, Col. Akarat Chitroj, told the Associated Press that Sonthi would serve as prime minister. But a government spokesman denied that Thaksin was no longer head of the government. "At this moment, he is still the prime minister. I just talked to a senior party member and everyone confirms that Thaksin is still prime minister," Susasanee Nakpong told the AP.

In New York, Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai condemned the coup. Thaksin "is constitutionally and legally elected prime minister," he told CNN. "And this is an elected government. . . . If there's going to be any change, it has to be through the democratic means, and we have upcoming elections anyway in November, so we should listen to the voice of the people."

The coup is the 18th successful or attempted military takeover in Thailand since the country became a constitutional monarchy in 1932. But in the 1990s, the military stepped back from this role as democratic institutions began to take root.

As recently as this weekend, Thaksin denied that a coup was in the making. "As far as I know, there's no such movement for the time being," he said, according to the Nation newspaper.

Thaksin and his Thais Love Thais party won a resounding victory in 2005 elections, securing 374 of 500 seats in the House of Representatives. But he soon found himself in a political crisis.

Street protests that had begun with a murmur late last year found voice in January after Thaksin's family sold its shares in Shin Corp., a telecommunications and satellite company, to Singapore's Temasak Holdings for $1.9 billion, tax-free.

Thaksin sought to counter demands for his resignation by calling early elections in April, only to see them boycotted by the opposition parties. King Bhumibol called on the courts to "clear up the mess," and the judges nullified the vote.

Sen. Kraisak Choonhavan, whose late father, Gen. Chatichai Choonhavan, was ousted as prime minister in the last successful coup in 1991, said the new takeover was "unfortunate . . . but it seems as if it was inevitable. And I think the key to understand in this event is probably Mr. Thaksin wants to take out the existing military hierarchy altogether and put his men in and have total control of Thailand."

Thaksin had been hoping that a recent military reshuffle and series of promotions would strengthen his hand, analysts said.

Staff writers Glenn Kessler and Colum Lynch at the United Nations contributed to this report.


The govt was not popular as such since there was always the doubt of some shenanigans going on all the time.

It has not affected the tourist trade and sex tourism continues to boom.

It is too laid back a country.

Hopefully, the King who is respected, will bring back the country to normal once again!

20 Sep 06,, 17:06
Hmmm, i hope Supatra was on the right side of this coup...

20 Sep 06,, 17:23
Hmmm, i hope Supatra was on the right side of this coup...That was my first thought when I heard about this. :frown:

20 Sep 06,, 17:27
Who is Suputra?

20 Sep 06,, 17:32
Coup bypasses party circuit

A soldier in Bangkok on Tuesday. (AP)

Bangkok, Sept. 19 (Agencies): The Thailand coup went largely unnoticed in the country’s popular tourist districts, where foreigners packed beer bars and cabarets oblivious to the activity about 3 km away.

But word raced among street vendors hawking T-shirts who packed up their carts quickly and started heading home.

The coup came a day before a major rally — the first in several months — was to be staged in Bangkok by a coalition against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The alliance has been seeking his resignation for alleged corruption and abuse of power.

Mass street protests demanding Thaksin’s ouster began late last year, resulting in a political crisis that has dragged on for months. In recent days, Thaksin had hinted that he might leave the political scene.

The Prime Minister, now in New York, has advanced his address to the UN General Assembly. Thaksin, who had been due to speak tomorrow, switched places with Montenegro on the speaker’s list due to the developing events, according to the UN spokesman’s office.

In New York, word of the coup spread quickly among about two dozen protesters who gathered across the street from the UN, demanding that Thaksin resign. They were constantly on cellphones, keeping in touch with friends and family in Thailand.

“I think something is happening this moment,” said Patty Vongchan, who has lived in the US for 34 years but said she has protested at the UN every year since Thaksin took office in 2001. “It’s overdue.”

In Bangkok, several hundred soldiers were deployed at key points, including government installations and important intersections.

A dozen soldiers patrolled around the Erawan Hotel, a major tourist facility, in the heart of the business district.

In Washington, the state department said it had seen various reports of military movements as well as reported declarations of a state of emergency in Bangkok by the Prime Minister.

“We are monitoring developments closely, but the situation at the moment is unclear,” Kenneth Bailes, a spokesman, said. “We look to the Thai people to resolve their political differences in a peaceful manner and in accord with the principles of democracy and the rule of law,” Bailes said.

Thaksin had labelled Washington a “useless friend” after US criticism of his human rights record.

The PM will be leaving for London where he has property and then dip his fingers into the Swiss accounts!:biggrin:

20 Sep 06,, 17:41
Who is Suputra?I'll shoot you a PM.
Probably not necessary, but I'd hate to be wrong.

20 Sep 06,, 17:44
She's a Thai General that i'm quite fond of.

20 Sep 06,, 19:33
The PM will be leaving for London where he has property and then dip his fingers into the Swiss accounts!:biggrin:

What? Not in the French Riviera? I thought all deposed tyrants and corrupt politicians end up in France. After all, people like to hang out with their own kind.

20 Sep 06,, 20:22
As per the WAB news ticker it quotes BBC indicating that the King has endorsed the coup!

21 Sep 06,, 05:57
As per the WAB news ticker it quotes BBC indicating that the King has endorsed the coup!
That is correct sir. Takshin Sinawatra's corruption was a pain for the Thai people.

21 Sep 06,, 06:56
It is true that the urban middle class was pretty ticked with Thaksin, but I believe that he still had a lot of support from rural Thai people. Since it was generally thought that he would probably win in another election, I wonder how much support this coup has. Of course, now that the very highly respected king has weighted in with his opinion Thaksin might find that his remaining support melts away.

21 Sep 06,, 15:43
Thaksin was opening up Thai economy to the world, but then he dipped his finger in the till!

22 Sep 06,, 05:04
Thaksin was opening up Thai economy to the world, but then he dipped his finger in the till!
Sir, he has a history of being neck deep in corruption.

22 Sep 06,, 06:53
...and whoever replaces him will be corrupt too. We are talking about Thailand here. A beautiful country with beautiful people, they just have a different way of doing things.

23 Sep 06,, 03:19
Theres some debate on other forums whether supatra is real or not.:confused:

23 Sep 06,, 04:17
While I have no question as to Thaksin's poor policies and general corruption, I really dislike it when the military starts getting involved in democratic affairs. I really don't think the movements in the South are quite as threatening as those communist insurgents Thailand used to have...