A swift coup d'etat in Bangkok Tuesday night has ousted Thai caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra while the premier was far away from home.
Thaksin was in New York, the United States, to attend the 16th UN General Assembly when the military staged a coup in Bangkok on late Tuesday night.
A military source told Xinhua that Thaksin had agreed to resign, and that General Surayu Zhulanong, a privy counselor to the King of Thailand, would be the new prime minister of a transitional military government.
The Government House in Bangkok, which had been Thaksin's office as Thai prime minister before tonight, has been occupied by military and police cars and soldiers by 10:30 p.m. (1530 GMT). Paths to the complex were blocked by dozens of tanks and armored cars. Civilian vehicles and passers-by were being evacuated by police from the nearby areas. Xinhua correspondent at the site was told by a policeman to stop taking pictures and keep away from the "forbidden zone."
An army officer at the site told Xinhua that sporadic conflicts occurred around the Government House, with some people throwing stones at soldiers and policemen, but he did not elaborate.
Some residents living nearby said everything happened too suddenly for them to react or reflect. "The military acted too quickly. My family and I thought it was tractors from the suburbs driving in when we heard the rumbling," Gongphart, a Bangkok resident told Xinhua. "We opened the door to find the military has blocked the road. It just came all of a sudden. We don't know what to say with this situation."
Thaksin had tried to issue a statement to declare the state of emergency over the country and to order Army Chief Songdhi, who was said to be the commander in general of the coup engaging all military and police units, to report to the deputy prime minister. But his speech, aired from the United States and transmitted by state TV channel 9, lasted only less than 15 minutes before it was cut off, as the military was said to have taken over all TV and radio stations.
"How do I feel now? I have no word for it," said Gongphart, pointing to the Government House, shut in the late night rain and under a heavy armed guard, "but it seems Premier Thaksin would not be able to come back again."
By midnight, Bangkok seemed to become quiet, with more rain. An overall martial law has been imposed, and a military organization, the National Administrative and Reforming Commission, has been formed to declare dismissal of the caretaker cabinet and the Constitutional Court, and to choose a transitional government leader.