[ 2006-09-21 10:37 ]
Bangkon, Thailand - Thailand's
new military ruler, winning crucial royal backing for his bloodless coup, announced Wednesday that he
would not call elections for another year. The US and other Western
nations expressed disapproval and urged a swift restoration of
Commander-in-Chief Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin listens to a
reporter's questions in Bangkok Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2006.
Army commander Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin, appearing
relaxed and confident in his military uniform at his first news conference
since seizing power Tuesday night, said he would serve as de facto
prime minister for two weeks until the junta, which calls itself the Council of
Administrative Reform, chooses a civilian to replace him and drafts an
Sondhi sealed the success of his coup by receiving royal endorsement as
leader of the new junta, while ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra,
who watched events unfold from abroad, pondered his future and the threat
of possible prosecution at home.
Receiving the imprimatur of
revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej legitimizes the takeover, and should
effectively quash any efforts at resistance by Thaksin's partisans.
Thaksin's ouster followed a series of missteps that prompted many to
accuse the prime minister of challenging the king's authority, an
unpardonable act in this traditional Southeast Asian nation that is a
popular vacation destination for Westerners.
There appeared to be a sense of relief among many Thais at the
resolution of political tensions that had hung over the nation since the
beginning of the year, when street demonstrations demanding Thaksin step
down for alleged corruption and abuse of power gained momentum. Thailand
has had no working legislature and only a caretaker government since
February, when Thaksin dissolved parliament to hold new elections in an
effort to reaffirm his mandate.
The presence of tanks and armed soldiers on the streets of Bangkok, a
city of more than 10 million, was taken with good humor in an almost
holiday atmosphere. Schools, government offices and the stock market were
closed Wednesday but were to reopen Thursday.
Outside Thailand, the coup drew criticism from several foreign
governments and human rights groups, who expressed dismay at the overthrow
of a popularly elected government.
The Bush administration denounced the coup and hinted that US aid,
military cooperation and improved trade relations might be in jeopardy.