Friday, September 22, 2006
orry for the lack of update yesterday, I've been a little busy. I'm fine, family is fine, Best Dog in the World is fine, etc.
Keep watching the pages linked in the last post to keep up with minute by minute developments (both the Post and Nation have breaking news pages for bulletins), and allow me to amend some of my premature claims in the last post. There is indeed censorship, some discussion boards have been closed down, as well as the 19 Sep. website mentioned earlier, and text messaging to tv programs has been stopped. The international news broadcasters have been back on the cable, and I didn't notice any cutaways last night on CNN, despite Mr. Dan Rivers' rather overly excitable and ominous reports.
MR Pridiyathorn Devakula has not been named interim PM, as I picked up from The Nation on Wednesday. He arrived from Singapore shortly after I posted, and denied the story. He is still mentioned as one of the leading names.* Surakiart Sathirathai, former deputy prime minister and presently a candidate to replace Kofi Annan as UN SecGen, is also in Bangkok and said he appreciated that the Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy (the council's preferred title, or CDRM) continued to support his candidacy.
A couple of notable quotes I saved yesterday -- from The Nation, Sopaporn Kurz had a good account of the foreign diplomats' meeting with General Sonthi and his top brass. Sonthi assured a continuation of foreign policy:
He [Sonthi] also believed that there will not be much effect to the Thai economy and insisted that Thailand's foreign policy remained intact. He said the ARC [CDRM] continue to support ousted Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai's bid for the next UN Secretary General as well as other bilateral economic agreements.I believe Khun Somsak intends, in what is translated as "how many times I went to the coup in my life," to say that he has opposed, protested and resisted coups many times in his life. He knows the ghosts of October.
The press conference was in a relatively light-heart mood. There was no sense of tensions and all the army leaders appeared to be relaxed.
Outside the Army headquarter, there were several hundreds of people gathering to show moral support for the military. Almost all of them dressed in yellow T-shirt, showing their loyal to HM the King. Some were holding a sign saying "Thank you to the King's soldiers"....
A retiree Somsak Tangjitwisut, 71, said he came to the army headquarter with his six other family members to support Sonthi.
"I can't remember how many times I went to the coup in my life. But I'm so happy with this coup so much that I almost cry," he said with shaken voice.
Reported yesterday, and here cited in yesterday's Post, are the results of a survey conducted by the well regarded polling unit of Suan Dusit Rajabhat University. It was plain as day for me to report the atmosphere here in Bangkok as generally positive and upbeat -- not very surprising given that Thaksin was unpopular in the capital. But what of his often cited popularity in the provinces, and the equally often cited "rural / urban divide"?
1. Do you agree with the coup?The countryside is slightly more approving of the coup than the city, a huge surprise for me. The people are in love with "His Majesty's Soldiers", as I'm sure most interested readers will have seen in the pictures and video getting out. Yes, there are some heavy restrictions in place now, but the feeling here is for patience.
- Yes . . . . . . . . 81.6 %
- No . . . . . . . . . 18.4 %
- Yes . . . . . . . . 86.36 %
- No . . . . . . . . . 13.44 %
- Yes . . . . . . . . 83.98 %
- No . . . . . . . . . 16.02 %
2. Will the coup improve politics?
- Yes . . . . . . . . . 72.8 %
- No change . . . . . 20 %
- Worse . . . . . . . . 7.2 %
- Yes . . . . . . . . . 77.27 %
- No change . . . . 20.45 %
- Worse . . . . . . . . 2.28 %
- Yes . . . . . . . . . 75.04 %
- No change . . . . 20.22 %
- Worse . . . . . . . . 4.74 %
Two special pages which may be of interest to those looking for context and background, again from The Nation: Figures behind the coup, and a bit of history on Rise and Fall of Thaksin Shinawatra. More later.
* - correction: I originally wrote that Khun Surakiart was included in potential choices for Prime Minister, but this is incorrect. The former WTO chief Supachai Panitchpakdi, presently chairman of the UN Conference on Trade and Development is a potential candidate.
UPDATE: [23/09/06 - 22:00 local] Some journalists, particularly in the first hours of the coup, were blathering uninformed nonsense, as I think I've mentioned a couple of times already. I heard a lot of real whoppers in the first hour and a half before CNN's feed was stopped that night. I'm sure that must be part of the reason for this:
"At today's meeting top military leaders asked the foreign ministry to urgently retaliate against foreign reporters whose coverage has been deemed insulting to the monarchy," deputy spokesman Major General Thaweep Netniyan told reporters.I'll name one: CNN. More very soon.
Thaweep, speaking at a press conference after a three-hour meeting of the generals, did not name the foreign media organisations or dispatches deemed offensive and did not specify how the regime would retaliate.
Insulting the king is a serious criminal offense in Thailand, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.