Thai Army Leaders Depose Prime Minister

Thai soldiers patrol outside Government House, the prime minister's offices, in Bangkok. Troops seized the capital Tuesday night without firing a shot.
Thai soldiers patrol outside Government House, the prime minister's offices, in Bangkok. Troops seized the capital Tuesday night without firing a shot. (Associated Press)
By Bill Brubaker and Ron Corben
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, September 20, 2006; 1:34 PM

The leader of a bloodless coup that ousted Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra while he was in New York said Wednesday he will act as prime minister for two weeks until a leader "who is neutral and upholds democracy" is found.

Army commander Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratkalin said in his first public appearance since seizing power that a temporary constitution will be enacted within two weeks and a general election will be held in October 2007, the Associated Press reported.

Sonthi asked for the public's support and declared the coup was necessary to end serious conflicts within Thai society that Thaksin had created.

"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.

Sonthi said the coup was needed "in order to resolve the conflict and bring back normalcy and harmony among people."

He hinted that Thaksin may face prosecution, AP reported. Asked if there would be moves to confiscate Thaksin's assets, Sondhi said: "Those who have committed wrongdoings have to be prosecuted according to the law." He did not elaborate.

Thai army leaders deposed Thaksin, 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. in Bangkok. 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 and Wednesday morning flew to London on what the British Foreign Office described as a private visit, according to AP.

Reports online in The Nation, a Thai newspaper, had speculated earlier 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.

The Nation reported that ousted Foreign Minister Kantathi Supamongkhon traveled to London from Paris, where he was attending a cultural exhibition.

The Thai newspaper, quoting a "well-informed source," reported that former deputy prime minister Surakiart Sathirathai would possibly return to Bangkok on Thursday.

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