- Title: VARIOUS: The Thai army says imposed military rule in Thailand is temporary
- Date: 21st September 2006
- Summary: (W2) BANGKOK, THAILAND (SEPTEMBER 20, 2006) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR STOCK EXCHANGE OF THAILAND (SET) BUILDING CLOSE UP OF SET SIGN VARIOUS OF SOLDIERS STANDING GUARD OUTSIDE SET BUILDING, SIGN ANNOUNCING WEDNESDAY'S CLOSURE PEOPLE ON STREETS OF BANGKOK THAI WOMAN READING NEWSPAPER HEADLINES
- Reuters ID: LVA8H9M53PQESRQCZLN07QYCYE0M
- Duration: 00:00:30
- Aspect Ratio:
- Topics: International Relations,Domestic Politics
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None
- Story Text: Thailand's army chief vowed on Wednesday (September 20), to wipe the political slate clean and return "power to the people" as soon as possible after a bloodless coup against billionaire Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Commander-in-chief General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, who had repeatedly dismissed a coup as a way out of a prolonged political stalemate, took power late on Tuesday (September 19) as head of an interim 'Political Reform Council' run by the military.
"I would like to assure that the Council has no intention of running the country by itself and will return power, under the constitutional monarchy, to the people as soon as possible," he said in a national television address on Wednesday morning.
Announcements carried on all television channels said political gatherings of more than five people were banned, but otherwise Bangkok remained calm and quiet, with its notorious traffic jams alleviated by the holiday announcement.
Later on Wednesday, the Thai military announced it plans to choose a new prime minister within two weeks and step back from power. "We have two weeks. After two weeks, we will step out," coup leader General SonthiSonthi told a news conference.
The military leadership was poring over lists of candidates for the prime minister's job.
"We want a person who loves democracy and constitutional monarchy," he said.
Ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was in New York when the military took power on Tuesday night, was welcome to return to his homeland, he said.
Political watcher Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political science lecturer at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, said on Wednesday the current armed forces chiefs would likely learn from history and not attempt to remain in power.
"The agenda is clear. We need some kind of interim impartial interim government leading towards political reforms, new constitution and the elections. I do not believe the army will try to remain in power for any length of time. They've learnt their lessons from 1991, 92. In fact they left , were ousted, overthrown in disgrace in May 1992. And I mean Thailand looks very badly in the international community spotlight and the military knows it," Thitinan told Reuters.
Instead of imposing other restrictions under martial law, the coup leaders declared Wednesday a government and market holiday to help maintain calm.
Many people believed the Thai crisis will be over soon.
"It should end up with a good result and I hope all the problems we have will be solved soon," said Sirida Poonthong.
The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) was closed Wednesday after the Thai armed forces declared the day a government, bank and market holiday following a coup to oust Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Tuesday night.
A coup spokesman said the holiday was called to help maintain calm in the southeast Asian nation.
The main Thai stock index <.SETI> closed down 0.47 percent on Tuesday just hours before the army took control of Bangkok without firing a shot and announced a commission to reform the constitution. The Thai baht, one of Asia's strongest currencies this year, suffered its biggest fall in three years.
On the streets of downtown Bangkok, it was business as usual, with shops opened for business and people out on the streets and motorways relatively free of the notorious Bangkok traffic.
Commercial banks on the other hand were shuttered in Bangkok, and foreign car manufacturers such as Japan's Nissan Motor Co <7201.T>, one of hundreds of investors in Thailand's export-driven economy, said they had halted operations for a day. Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor's put Thailand's credit rating on review for possible downgrades.
"Really the question now is how long will this crisis last? Our concern is if this political uncertainty persists for very long it could have a negative impact on investment and it could continue to distract the policy makers from managing that period of uncertainty," Standard & Poor's Managing Director David Beers told Reuters.
Japan, the biggest foreign investor in Thailand, said the bloodless coup by a group headed by Army commander-in-chief General Sonthi Boonyaratglin was regrettable.
"It is regrettable. Our country will closely watch the progress of the situation with grave interest." Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said at a regular morning news conference on Wednesday (September 20).
"Our country strongly hopes that the situation will become normal and a democratic political structure will be restored swiftly." He added.
On Tuesday evening as soldiers took up positions on street corners throughout the capital, a coup spokesman said Thaksin had been ousted to resolve a near year-long political deadlock and to stop "rampant corruption".
Thaksin, who was in New York at the U.N. General Assembly, apparently tried to head off the putsch by phoning a Thai television station to announce a state of emergency but was cut off after 10 minutes.
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- Embargoed:6th October 2006 13:00