Coup in Thailand While Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra Visits United Nations Shocks Foreign Governments

Coup in Thailand While Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra Visits United Nations Shocks Foreign Governments

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Early this morning military leaders in Thailand conducted a coup ousting Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra while he was in New York delivering a speech to the United Nations General Assembly. General Sondhi Boonyaratkalin staged the coup and named himself acting Prime Minister while declaring martial law.

The country and world news media didn’t seemed fazed. An Associated Press report said residents of Bangkok awoke to see army personnel on the corners and tanks blocking off the government district. The city of more than 10 million was calm and most residents appeared unfazed. An editorial in the Houston Chronicle said that even the tourists “strolled about indifferent or oblivious to the tanks and police vehicles in the streets.”

The coup was not the first story on the major networks and very few details were given in their reporting. Evidently coups in Thailand are commonplace with the last one taking place in 1991. Because the coup was bloodless and without any resistance, the Chronicle said it appears “democracy has not put down deep roots there” yet.

There were some 20 tanks with yellow ribbons tied around the barrels blocking the entrance to the Royal Palace, Royal Plaza, army headquarters and Thaksin's office at Government House. The AP reports that the provisional government ordered government offices, banks, schools and the stock market closed for the day while they seized television and radio stations.

The new regime is loyal to the Thai king, according to the reports. Sondhi said on nationwide television that the overthrow was needed “in order to resolve the conflict and bring back normalcy and harmony among people.''

Reuters reported that foreign governments expressed “dismay” and some warned their citizens against traveling to Thailand. The Bernama news agency reported that the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, said "I am really shocked. I didn't expect a coup would have taken place in Thailand." Badawi was at the United Nations today as well.

The report said that Australia has called for a return to democratic rule and will be contacting the senior Thai military figures to gauge their intentions. "It's unacceptable for the military just to overthrow a government in this way," Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Although Japan is largest foreign investor in Thailand and stands to lose the most, the Thai economy may be the loser as well. Thailand draws around 12 million tourists a year, but Reuters reports that “there were no signs that visitors were cancelling trips due to the coup”.

There have been some draconian rules placed on the people in Thailand. AP says that political gatherings of more than five people were banned and carried a sentence of six months in prison and a fine of 10,000 baht ($265). There were also stiff penalties for price gouging and hording. The new government also said those who resist the regional commanders would be severely punished.

By Dan Wilson
Best Syndication Writer



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