Thai authorities arrested and charged with treason a former prime minister, three retired senior military officers and the deputy supreme commander of the armed forces today for their alleged involvement in an abortive coup attempt Sept. 9.
The five were among 25 military personnel, members of Parliament, labor leaders and businessmen who were arrested and charged with treason, according to Police Chief Gen. Narong Mahanond. Nine others were being sought.
The arrests and charging of retired general Kriangsak Chomanand, who served as prime minister from 1977 to 1980, came after a police investigative commission issued warrants for more than 30 persons suspected of involvement in a plot to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanond while he was traveling abroad.
Also arrested and charged with treason were former supreme commander and deputy prime minister general Serm Na Nakhon, retired deputy Army commander general Yos Thephasdin, a former deputy supreme commander, air chief marshal Krasae Intharatna, and the current deputy supreme commander, Air Chief Marshal Arun Promthep.
Kriangsak reportedly has denied the charges and was seeking release on bail. The former prime minister, who took power in a 1977 coup and was replaced by Prem three years later, is a member of Parliament and leader of the National Democracy Party, which is part of Prem's coalition government.
Kriangsak's arrest triggered the resignation today of Industry Minister Ob Vasuratna and two deputy ministers -- all members of the National Democracy Party -- and paved the way for a reshuffle of Prem's Cabinet.
However, it remained to be seen whether the repercussions would be wider. No action has been taken against senior military commanders who reportedly backed the coup attempt as it was being organized by former Army colonel Manoon Roopkachorn but bailed out just before it was launched.
The takeover bid collapsed less than 12 hours after it began when anticipated reinforcements failed to appear and Manoon's core group of 400 to 500 troops surrendered to government forces.
Others being sought include Manoon and his younger brother, Manas, an Air Force wing commander.