BANGKOK: The Thai military launched a coup against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday, circling his offices with tanks, seizing control of television stations and declaring a provisional authority loyal to the king.
An announcement on Thai television channel 5 declared that a "Council of Administrative Reform" with King Bhumibol Adulyadej as head of state had seized power in Bangkok and nearby provinces without any resistance.
A convoy of tanks rigged with loudspeakers and sirens rolled through a busy commercial district warning people to get off the street for their own safety.
A senior military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said that Army Commander-in-Chief Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin had used the military to take over power from the prime minister.
At least 14 tanks surrounded Government House, Thaksin's office. Thaksin was in New York at the UN General Assembly and declared a state of emergency.
"The prime minister with the approval of the Cabinet declares serious emergency law in Bangkok from now on" Thaksin said on Channel 9 from New York. He said he was ordering the transfer of the nation's army chief to work in the prime minister's office, effectively suspending him from his military duties.
Several hundred soldiers were deployed at keys points in the capital of Bangkok, including government installations and major intersections, witnesses said. A dozen soldiers patrolled around Erawan Hotel, a major tourist facility, in the heart of the business district.
Army-owned TV channel 5 interrupted regular broadcasts with patriotic music and showed pictures of the king. At least some radio and television stations monitored in Bangkok suspended programming.
The cable television station of The Nation newspaper reported that tanks were parked at the Rachadamnoen Road and Royal Plaza close to the Royal Palace and government offices.
Local radio station Ruam Duay Chuay Kan interrupted its programming just as a reporter was about to give information from Government House.
EVENTS LEADING TO COUP
Feb 6, 2005 - Thaksin's party wins a second landslide election victory.
Jan 23, 2006 - Thaksin's relatives sell their controlling stake in the telecoms empire he founded. The tax-free US$1.9 billion sale angers Bangkok's middle classes.
Feb 24 - Thaksin calls a snap election on April 2, three years early.
Feb 27 - Three main opposition parties announce an election boycott.
April 2 - Election is held despite opposition boycott.
April 4 - After a strong protest vote, Thaksin announces he will step down as soon as the next parliament meets.
April 5 - Thaksin hands day-to-day power to deputy prime minister.
April 26 - The three main opposition parties say they will stand in a new election if April 2 poll is annulled.
May 8 - Constitutional Court rules that the election is unconstitutional and a new poll should be held.
Source: China Daily