sawasdee kha!

9/19/06

I’d like to use the blog today as a public service for our wonderful commenter Lyle, better known to you as the Bangkok Expat Mama. She’s an old friend of the UVA crew that lurks on these pages, and her adopted country of Thailand just had a bloodless coup while Prime Minister Thaksin was away at the United Nations.

They have shut down most web services, and Lyle’s few information outlets include this blog and Fox News, which pretty much defines “irony”. So I’m offering this entry as a way for people to talk to Lyle and to give her the news, as we have millions of sites at her disposal, and she has but a few.

These are the basics:

– Coup leader (Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratkalin) says action was necessary to end “intense conflict.” He said on TV last night he’ll turn the government back to the people as soon as possible.

– Sonthi, the first Muslim army commander in Buddhist-dominated Thailand, was appointed to the army’s top post last year with a mission to deal with an Islamic insurgency in the country’s south.

– Thai TV says that coup leaders have told the king they’re taking over the country, and I’m not sure what he said, but apparently the king didn’t like Thaksin.

– Police reportedly clearing streets, but no violence reported.

– Thai military says nation under martial law; constitution suspended.

– Gatherings of more than five people are banned.

– Ousted Prime Minister Thaksin is going to be hanging in London.

– Oddly enough, market watchers think this is all eventually good news.

This was just in from the AP wire:

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — The United States has urged Americans to reconsider any travel to Thailand while Britain told its citizens living there to stay in their homes, after the Thai military toppled the country’s prime minister in a coup… those already in the capital [should] stay at home, and monitor the media. The U.S. Embassy, in an e-mail to its citizens living in Thailand, said that while there had been no reports of violence in the overnight coup, Americans should “monitor the situation closely, avoid any large gatherings and exercise discretion when moving about the city.”

“At this point, we are not advising Americans to leave Thailand; however, Americans planning to travel to Thailand may wish to carefully consider their options before traveling until the situation becomes clearer.”

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Anyway, Lyle, we’re with you over there and we hope you and your kids stay safe! Anyone who has more reports or questions or observations, you know where to click below…

0 thoughts on “sawasdee kha!

  1. Bud

    Hi Lyle,
    If you haven’t heard, the King has now endorsed the coup.
    From CNN:
    “BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — The army commander who seized Thailand’s government Wednesday in a quick, bloodless coup pledged to hold elections by October 2007, and received a ringing endorsement from the country’s revered king.
    “In order to create peace in the country, the king appoints Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratglin as head of the council of administrative reform,” according to the announcement on state-run television.
    “All people should remain peaceful and civil servants should listen to orders from Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratglin from now on.”
    Sonthi led a precision takeover overnight without firing a shot, sending soldiers and tanks to guard major intersections and surround government buildings while the popularly elected Thaksin Shinawatra, accused of corruption and undermining democratic institutions, was abroad.
    Asked if there would be moves to confiscate Thaksin’s vast assets, Sonthi said at a news conference that “those who have committed wrongdoings have to be prosecuted according to the law.”
    Sonthi did not elaborate. But an announcement later on state-run television said the newly formed Council of Administrative Reform had sacked the state audit commissioners and given additional powers to Auditor General Jaruvan Maintaka to investigative government corruption, which could lead to the confiscation of Thaksin’s assets.
    A British government spokesman said Thaksin was en route to Britain, where he has a residence in London, but had no meetings scheduled with Prime Minister Tony Blair or other officials.
    Sonthi said he would act as prime minister for two weeks until a new leader is found, that an interim constitution would be drafted within that time, and that Thailand’s foreign policy and international agreements will not change.
    Thailand will hold a general election in October 2007, he said.
    Sonthi said the coup, Thailand’s first in 15 years, was necessary to heal mounting rifts in Thai society, and to end government corruption, insults to the revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and what the general called Thaksin’s attempts to destroy democratic institutions.
    Bangkok mostly quiet; coup gets support
    Most residents and tourists in Bangkok, a city of more than 10 million, were calm and unfazed Wednesday.
    About 500 people gathered outside army headquarters Wednesday afternoon lending moral support to the military and chanting “Thaksin Get Out!”
    But in the first sign of anti-coup sentiment, Thaksin supporters faced off with rival groups celebrating the coup at two separate gatherings in Bangkok. Soldiers intervened, narrowly averting clashes.
    The newly created Council of Administrative Reform put Thailand under martial law and declared a provisional authority loyal to the king, seizing television and radio stations and ordering government offices, banks, schools and the stock market to close for the day.
    Nearly 20 tanks — their gun barrels festooned with ribbons in the monarch’s color, yellow — had blocked off the Royal Palace, Royal Plaza, army headquarters and Thaksin’s office at Government House.
    Tanks began shifting from their downtown Bangkok positions Wednesday evening, but it was unclear if they were withdrawing.
    The overthrow was needed “to resolve the conflict and bring back normalcy and harmony among people,” Sonthi said on nationwide TV.
    “We would like to reaffirm that we don’t have any intention to rule the country and will return power to the Thai people as soon as possible,” he said, flanked by the three armed forces chiefs and the national police chief.
    A statement from coup leaders urged workers and farmers — Thaksin’s key constituents — to remain calm, and said unauthorized gatherings of more than five people were punishable by six months in prison under martial law.
    Report: Government officials arrested
    The Nation newspaper in Bangkok said several senior government officials and others close to Thaksin had been arrested, their fates unknown.
    It said they included Deputy Prime Minister Chitchai Wannasathit and Supreme Military Commander Gen. Ruengroj Maharsaranond.
    Agriculture Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan, one of Thaksin’s closest political associates, fled to Paris with her family, it said.
    Reacting to rumors that he would be appointed interim prime minister, central bank head Pridiyathorn Devakula said, “I haven’t been approached, and I don’t know whether I am a candidate.”
    He said that the public has accepted the coup, so it was unlikely to have much impact on foreign confidence in the country, and that the Thai baht currency had recovered from its overnight low with no intervention.
    In New York, a Thai business executive who said he was speaking on behalf of Thaksin said the toppled leader was not resigned to his fate.
    “The prime minister has not given up his power,” said Tom Kruesopon, chief executive officer of Boon Rawd Trading International Co., who said he was traveling with Thaksin.
    But Thaksin’s official government spokesman, Surapong Suebwonglee, also traveling with him, was gloomier. “We have to accept what happened,” he said. “We are not coming back soon.”
    Some Thais welcomed the coup as a necessary climax to months of demands for Thaksin’s resignation amid allegations of corruption and electoral skullduggery, and a worsening Muslim insurgency in south Thailand.
    Nations call for restoration of democracy
    The U.S. State Department said it was uneasy about the takeover and hopes “the Thai people will resolve their political differences in accord with democratic principles and the rule of law.”
    Australia said it was concerned to see democracy “destroyed,” and New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said her country “condemns” the coup.
    Japan called for efforts to quickly restore democracy in Thailand, where many leading Japanese businesses have factories and affiliates.
    Sonthi, 59, known to be close to Thailand’s constitutional monarch, is a Muslim in a Buddhist-dominated nation.
    He was selected last year to head the army, partly because it was felt he could better deal with the Muslim insurgency in the south, where 1,700 people have been killed since 2004. He has urged negotiations with the separatists, in contrast to Thaksin’s hard-line approach.
    Thaksin, a telecommunications tycoon before entering politics, handily won three general elections after coming to power in 2001 and garnered great support among the rural poor for his populist policies.
    But he alienated the urban middle class, intellectuals and pro-democracy activists. They began mass street demonstrations late last year, charging him with abuse of power, corruption and emasculation of the country’s democratic institutions, including media that were once among Asia’s freest.”

    Reply
  2. Ian

    Lyle – no worries about the lack of comments. If people can’t get riled up about an actual coup in sovereign nation, then I certainly can’t wake them up!
    Keep posting things as they happen – for my part, I’m very interested and did a lot of research on the Thai govt over the last 20 years. Crazy things, eh?

    Reply
  3. KTS

    I did get riled up!
    It seemed to me from what I read to be a really good Revolution. But not being very familiar with Thailand’s political history, and with the situation in flux, I hesitated to comment.
    My first reaction was that a constitutional monarchy/parliamentary democracy is a hell of lot better than a country run by a billionaire.
    Also, what the fuck about all this morally cleaning up the manufactured “dirty” image of Thailand in the last few years. Sounded like the government was becoming more fascist to me.
    My next reaction was that Lyle is lucky to live in a country where she can have an effective bloodless revolution.
    But my biggest revelation was that it all was synchronistic to Bush being taking down for his position on torture. All last week his military people and McCain and former Secretary of State butchered him on his pathologically proposed policy to change Article 3 of the Geneva Convention, which would effectively make torture US policy and protect the Bushites from future war crime trials.
    Bush is an idiot who should be impeached, if not worse, and if this country can’t get back at least one of the branches of Congress – a bloodless semi-coup, so to speak – in November, this place is screwed. The People Need Subpoena Power! Make that a bumper sticker.
    I wrote out a much more eloquent statement last night, and didn’t post it, because I didn’t want to bring Bush into a parallel with the billionaire what’s his name when I thought Lyle might me in danger, and I didn’t want to get “off topic.”
    But to hell with it. I’m pissed.
    Why can other countries clean up their political messes in relative style, and we’re stuck with a bunch of asshole dumb shit lying motherfuckers who are needlessly killing people all over the world in the name of the United States without a qualm and with ruthless abandon?

    Reply
  4. jon

    Irrelevant but interesting (to me, in Kentucky) sidebar to this story that was covered locally here today: Thaksin attended graduate school at Eastern Kentucky University. Got his masters in the tiny town of Richmond, KY. Weird. Who knew?

    Reply

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