Wednesday, September 20, 2006
MILITARY TAKES CONTROL OF BANGKOK
t may be too early to know whether tonight's coup d'etat has been successful, but it's looking that way. No violence has been reported so far, and BBC reports of an impending clash between factions seems to have been premature. That was my main worry after the announcement of the new regime last night at about 10:30. What we don't need is fighting in the streets tonight, and it seems that Taksin doesn't have the necessary support for that to happen.
So the city is calm (the heavy rain over the last few hours probably helped), and not "in chaos" as CNN put it with their website headline. All national networks have been running the same tv-pool feed -- music and pictures relating to His Majesty the King, with occasional brief announcements from the "Council for Administrative Reform." The broadcasts of CNN and BBC were yanked off the cable provider around midnight. But not before BBC ran a screen flash that "President of Thailand declares emergency" (!), and the reporter on the phone with CNN was just making up things on the fly. Not impressed with that at all.
The former prime minister is due to address the UN General Assembly in a couple of hours at 2300 GMT. I still have the AP Direct feed from satellite, which has been on the UNGA mostly tonight (and switching over to that big crowd at the Vatican at other times). So I should be able to see his address a little later, and that may help to clarify things. The latest word from his group in New York, is that he's still in control.
This coup is not really a surprise, and I expect that it will be generally well received tomorrow. The coup spokesman emphasised that they did not want to hold power for themselves, but would return it to the people as soon as possible. There was an earlier report that talks between senior statesman Prem Tinasulanonda, who is a Privy Councillor close to HM the King, and Taksin supporters had broken down yesterday morning.
Since a large anti-Taksin demonstration had been planned for tomorrow, there is an appearance of heading off something perhaps anticipated in connection with that. Last month, demonstrators were attacked by street fighters linked with Taksin's party. The ghosts of Octobers past (see down the page, on Sept. 1) have been on many minds. The coup announcements have stressed loyalty to the King and to democracy, saying that what was done was for the safety of the nation.
The proprietor at 2Bangkok.com has been keeping up with developments admirably overnight, and he includes some screenshots from tv as well. Almost like being here! The Nation posted an interesting synopsis just a few hours ago, on what has happened so far. At least they haven't shut down the newspapers, or the internet, yet. Breaking bulletins from The Nation here.
UPDATE: Yikes, that was Budapest I was seeing on APTN earlier, not the Vatican. Sorry about that. Those looked like Italian flags....
Taksin has cancelled his UN address, and is considering his future according to Reuters report. I think the danger of conflict has passed, and this coup will go down as one of the bloodless ones. There have been 18 coups d'etat since the constitutional monarchy was established in 1932. That dummy on CNN had been saying something like 48 coups since WW II...