Thai Royal Army Commander-in- Chief Gen. Sonthi Boonyarataglin staged a coup d'etat Tuesday evening and ousted the government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
A so-called "Democratic Reform Council" declared itself in control and declared martial law nationwide. Terse announcements said it included the commanders of all three armed forces and the police. It said the coup was necessary to correct "unprecedented division in the country."
The Council said there seemed to be widespread corruption, and independent agencies were subverted by politicians, apparently a reference to the Thaksin government. "The national government through the current administration has caused conflicts and undermined the harmony of the people as never before in history."
Public acceptance remained unknown. The coup occurred late Tuesday night, when Bangkok was under a major rainstorm, and few people were seen on the streets.
The opposition had scheduled a major anti-Thaksin rally for Wednesday. The last military coup, in 1991, was extremely unpopular and was overthrown by violent opposition in the streets.
Officers this time promised to hold power for as short a time as possible. An announcement over the name of Gen. Sonthi, a Special Forces veteran long seen as apolitical, promised: "The council is steadfast in its objective, which is not to take over the government permanently and it will hand back the power to the people as soon as possible."
The Council repealed the 1997 "people's constitution" and dissolved both houses of parliament, the government and the constitution court. Announcements said the Council was under the King, and confirmed that the Privy Council and all courts except the Constitution Court remained in power.
Retired Gen. Surayudh Chulanont, a respected former military commander now a member of the royal Privy Council, was said to be the new prime minister to replace Thaksin. There was no early word how log the generals intended to remain in power, or what their reforms would be.
Thaksin was in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly, and had earlier tried to dismiss Gen. Sonthi and order troops back to their barracks. His order, via a voice broadcast on TV and radio, was cut off halfway as the dramatic coup unfolded.
Tanks and troops of the Fourth Cavalry Battalion moved into strategic points in Bangkok, including the Royal Plaza.
Like most of the previous 19 military coups since 1932, there was no violence. Tanks surrounded Government House and apparently some newspaper offices. All broadcasting on local TV was interrupted, and replaced by a notice which stated the military takeover and apologized "for any inconvenience."
In the early hours of the coup, most other communications continued uninterrupted. But after several hours, all cable-TV broadcasts were cut, apparently because Thaksin and other Thai ministers were giving interviews to CNN and the BBC, which are widely seen in Bangkok.
Thailand airports remained open, including the main international airport at Bangkok.
Thai news websites were operating under very heavy loads as people tried to find out what was happening. As always, local broadcast media contained no breaking updates.
Thaksin said he would return to Thailand from New York. The shadowy coup administrators said he would not be allowed to resume his post as prime minister.
The whereabouts of most of the members the government were unknown. Thaksin, Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai and Foreign Minister Kantathi Suphamongkol were in New York. Deputy Prime Minister Chidchai Wannasathit, the caretaker premier, was reportedly detained by the military.
The national government through the current administration has caused conflicts and undermined the harmony of the people as never before in history.
Each side is determined to win by any means and the discord has shown a tendency to escalate.
Many people have been suspicious about the actions of the national administration under a constitutional monarchy.
The country has been governed in a way as to suggest widespread corruption. The independent agencies have been dominated by politics. The constitutional intention has been left unserved.
Since the coup, the Democratic Reform Council issued several announcements:
"In reference to the council's announcement of its power seizure earlier, for the sake of peace and order to prevail in the country, the council has imposed nationwide martial law."