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COUP D'ETAT IN THAILAND : On September 20, 2006

The army commander Gen Sonthi Boonyarataglin staged a coup d'etat Tuesday evening (Thailand time) and ousted the government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

A so-called "Democratic Reform Council" declared itself in control. Terse announcements said it included the commanders of all three armed forces and the police. It said the coup was necessary to correct "unprecedented division in the country."

Retired Gen Surayudh Chulanont, a respected former military commander now a member of the royal Privy Council, was announced as prime minister to replace Mr Thaksin. There was no early word how log the generals intended to remain in power, or what their reforms would be.

Mr Thaksin was in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly, and had earlier tried to dismiss Gen Sonthi and order troops back to their barracks. His order, via a voice broadcast on TV and radio, was cut off halfway as the dramatic coup unfolded.

Tanks and troops of the Fourth Cavalry Battalion moved into strategic points in Bangkok, including the Royal Plaza.

Like most of the previous 19 military coups since 1932, there was no violence. Tanks surrounded Government House and apparently some newspaper offices. All broadcasting on local TV was interrupted, and replaced by a notice which stated the military takeover and apologised "for any inconvenience."

In the early hours of the coup, most other communications continued uninterrupted. But after several hours, all cable-TV broadcasts were cut, apparently because Mr Thaksin and other Thai ministers were giving interviews to CNN and the BBC, which are widely seen in Bangkok.

Thailand airports remained open, including the main international airport at Bangkok.

Thailand websites including the Bangkok Post were operating under very heavy loads as people tried to find out what was happening. The Bangkok Post newspaper was being prepared and printed for Wednesday morning. The front page headline was a huge, black and capitalised statement:


As always, local broadcast media contained no breaking updates.

Mr Thaksin said he would return to Thailand from New York. The shadowy coup administrators said he would not be allowed to resume his post as prime minister.

Sources told the Bangkok Post that Privy Council president Gen Prem Tinsulananonda had tried and failed to mediate between the coup forces and another army faction loyal to Mr Thaksin. Gen Prem was summoned to the Royal Palace.

The whereabouts of most of the members the government were unknown. Mr Thaksin, Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai and Foreign Minister Kantathi Suphamongkol were in New York. Deputy Prime Minister Chidchai Wannasathit, the caretaker premier, was reportedly detained by the military.

'Thai army chief seizes power, Thaksin ousted : On September 20, 2006

Thailand's army chief on Tuesday seized power in in the country's 20th coup d'etat since it embraced democracy and cast aside an absolute monarchy in 1932, and acted as a new prime minister to replace caretaker premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

The coup-makers, led by Army Commander-in-Chief Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, announced early Wednesday morning on Thai TV that the armed forces and police were under their control and they faced no resistance.

The military faction, calling itself the Democratic Reform under the Monarchy Council, immediately dissolved the cabinet and the senate. The constitution was also abolished.

The Council in its latest announcement said its leader will act as the new prime minister until someone is appointed by the Council. Earlier it was speculated that General Surayudh Chulanont, a member of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej's Privy Council, would be the new prime minister.

"We will not seize power for long," said a spokesman for the group, which has called itself the Democratic Reform under the Monarchy Council. "We will restore power to a government under the monarchy very soon."

The announcer, while avoiding the word "coup," said the seizure of power was necessary because of increasing political conflict was threatening national unity.

Thailand's former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is in New York to attend the annual United Nations General Assembly, in a broadcast Tuesday night declared a state of emergency, sacked Sonthi and called on the military to respect the authority of his deputy prime minister Chitchai Wanathasin.

Thaksin's broadcast was cut off in mid-sentence. It has been common in past military coups - Thailand experienced 19 previous coups and coup attempts since 1932 when the military overthrew the absolute monarchy - for the military to seize control of the airwaves as their first step to seizing power.

Panitan Wattanayagorn, a political science professor at Chulalongkorn University who specializes in military affairs, said it was still unclear whether the coup leaders were in complete control.

"There is a faction within the military loyal to Thaksin and another one loyal to now former army Commander-in-Chief Sonthi," said Panitan.

He said it remained to be seen whether there will be a confrontation between the military factions.

"Overall, the trend is not positive, to have the military getting involved in politics (again), but if they can prevent violence and hold a general election, things might be back to normal in a few weeks," said Panitan in an interview with Deutsche Presse-Agentur, dpa.

Sonthi is widely seen as a "professional soldier," without political aspirations.

Witnesses reported seeing tanks on the streets of the capital, and parked on Sanam Luang (the Royal Grounds), near the Grand Palace.

Troop and tank movements into the capital had been underway since the afternoon, Panitan said.

Thaksin, a billionaire telecommunications tycoon who has been prime minister since 2001, has been abroad since September 9, on state visits to Finland, Cuba and the United States to attend conferences, but many suspect to avoid a brewing political crisis at home.

In New York, UN security officials said Thaksin had not yet entered the UN buildings. Phone numbers to the Thai mission to the United Nations were busy all morning.

As he is no longer officially prime minister, it is questionable whether Thaksin will be permitted to address the UN.

The Thai delegation had requested to allow Thaksin to speak Tuesday evening, according to Marie Okabe, a UN spokesperson.

She said he asked to take the place of the Montenegrin leader on the speaker's schedule, who would then take Thaksin's place on the speaker role on Wednesday.

The premier has been under pressure to resign since January, when his family sold its share in the Thaksin-founded Shin Corp to Singapore's Temasek Holding in a 1.9 billion tax-free deal that irked Bangkok's tax-paying middle classes and elite.

Thaksin dissolved parliament in February and called for a snap election in an effort to regain his legitimacy in the face of mounting street protests against his allegedly corrupt administration and dictatorial leadership.

Thailand's three main opposition parties boycotted the April 2 polls, which Thakin's Thai Rak Thai Party won. The results, however, were annulled by the constitutional court in May after Thailand's much revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej said he had found the election undemocratic and urged the judiciary to act.

Thaksin's political fortunes have arguably been on the decline since. Speculation that Thaksin might return as prime minister after a general election expected in late November have sparked fears that his comeback would severely divide the country.

While Thaksin's populist policies have endeared him and his party to the rural poor, his self-serving policies and dictatorial style have turned Thailand's middle class and the political elite against him.

    From my opinion Suwit Gym because I am Thai people and know my Thai culture very well , This event don't have any die and don't worry so much because it will finish in a few day because some of Thai people ( many ) think my prime minister is not clear about corruption or conflict in his family business and we have the King too . It will finish soon not so long and Thai people are happy too .
Update time: Wednesday September 2006 Thailand .

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