A familiar series of rumors began to rock Thailand, as troop movements were reported in Bangkok. Earlier in the day, PM Thaksin had issued a cagey statement from overseas concerning his political intentions.
Then, this developing story on The Nation’s website:
Speaking from New York in Channel 9, Thaksin ordered Sondhi to report himself with Deputy Prime Minister Pol Gen Chidchai Wannasathit immediately.
Thaksin said he decided to declare the state of emergency because the situations were not stable.
His orders came after reports that Gen Sondhi was trying to stage a coup d’etat.
Tanks and army humvees were seen on Bangkok streets.
Earlier Channel 9 and 5 have been ordered to stand by for special announcement as coup speculation reached the highest pitch.
Coup was widely speculated after many army units were moved out of their barracks on pretext of personnel rotation.
Sources said Channel 5 would broadcast an announcement by the military at 10 pm while Channel 9 may broadcast announcement of caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra from New York.
Channel 5 is playing songs in praising of His Majesty the King in an indication that an announcement may be made soon.
At 10:26 pm, all TV stations are laying march music in praise of His Majesty the King as if the stations are now under control of one group.
Earlier, the day an army source said Army Commander-in-Chief has instructed all army units in Bangkok to standby for an important event.
There has been social division like never before. Each side has been trying to conquer another with all possible means and the situation tends to intensify with growing doubts on the administration amid widespread reported corruption.
State units and independent organisations have been politically meddled, not able to deliver their services as specified in the Constitution.
The administration is also usually bordering on “lest majest” actions against the revered King. Despite attempts from social units for compromises, there is no way to end the conflicts.
The revolution body thus needs to seize power. We have no intention to rule but to return the power to the people as soon as possible, to preserve peace and honour the King who is the most revered to all Thais.
See the BBC story, too. Sounds like Manila in February:
Mr Thaksin, who is at the UN in New York, announced he had removed the chief of the army and had ordered troops not to “move illegally”.
An army-owned TV station is showing images of the royal family and songs linked in the past with military coups.
Correspondents say that there have been low-level rumours of a possible coup for weeks.
Thai media say that two army factions appear to be heading for a clash, with one side backing the prime minister and the other side backing a rebel army chief.
Our correspondent Jonathan Head said it was not clear which faction had taken the initiative.
CNN’s former Thailand correspondent talking of Thailand’s “infant” democracy, the PM’s unpopularity in the capital (do we hear a borrowed phrase? Say, “imperial Bangkok”?), sidestepping of People Power and questions of legitimacy. Talk of how business and investor-oriented Thaksin is. Says everyone on tenterhooks to see if the King will speak. Thaksin advancing his speech to UN General Assembly and then rushing home. Blood & Treasure says the mobile phone networks are down, too. sgtowns.com says military’s announcing it’s in full control.
Colleague informs me a mutual acquaintance in Bangkok airport waiting for a flight didn’t even know a coup’s going on.
Bangkok Pundit is liveblogging. As is Oh! See What the Cat Drags In! Classes called off; cellular communications and the internet expected to be shut down. Sweet Lady says the coup came ahead of a scheduled large protest rally the next day. Another instant blog: Thailand Coup.
The prime minister of Hungary has confirmed the legitimacy of a leaked tape recording in which he says his government lied to win April’s election and “lied in the morning; lied in the evening” during office. The recording comes from a speech Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany gave to a closed party meeting shortly after his Socialist-Liberal coalition took office for a second term. -Guardian
And now has to grapple with protests.
1:33 am CNN reports martial law has been imposed throughout all Thailand. Provincial troops being sent to Bangkok. That TV crews and kibbitzers taking photos.
Update, 9 am: see the accounts of the BBC (also, eyewitness accounts, as well as pictures) and the Sydney Morning Herald. The Nation reports the PM’s wife has fled, his cabinet is in hiding or been arrested, or fled abroad; see also details of the preparations for, and the coup itself. Very interesting commentary from Torn & Frayed comparing and contrasting the Philippines and Thailand. The question: why a coup in Bangkok and not Manila? He says the President is actually less divisive than Thaksin. The point he makes about the King of Thailand serving as an arbiter of political morality and legitimacy, is interesting too -and suggests that Cardinal Sin played a similar, very Asian, it would seem, role in his day. An OFW Living in Hong Kong suggests defenders of the parliamentary system had better reconsider their arguments that their pet system is a kind of magic bullet. In Thailand it’s obviously not.
In former, happier times for Philconsa and Atty. whatsisname of whatsthatgroup…
Also, ChaCha advocates assert: High court can reverse itself, but then Philconsa joins anti-charter change fight in SC. The move of Philconsa is interesting: it has been flattered and paid attention to by the President for years; PCGG Chairman Camilo Sabio was a former head of the association; SnB considered it an ally, I’d think. The objection of Philconsa is interesting (and valid, from my reading of the law, when I proposed a series of provincial referendums). Also, what’s with their playing so fast and free with the numbers? A series of ads came out yesterday, saying they had practically 10 million signatures; but officially, they say, close to 7 million. Either way that’s a lot, but why the need to pump up the numbers by at least a million?
May Arab News column for this week is Does Philippine Constitution Allow Presidents to Assume Absolute Power?, and takes a look at a previous constitution. Manuel Buencamino looks at a constitution-to-be, and pens a devastating analysis:
Sigaw’s transitory provisions allow Mrs. Arroyo to retain all her powers. She can proclaim martial law and suspend the writ of habeas corpus although parliament is empowered to reject her proclamation.
However, Sigaw’s Consitution took away the checks and balances power granted by the 1987 Constitution to the Supreme Court, to “review, in an appropriate proceeding filed by any citizen, the sufficiency of the factual basis of the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the writ or any extension thereof . . . .”
In other words, there is no more legal recourse against collusion between Mrs. Arroyo and parliament on the proclamation of martial law or suspension of the writ. On top of that, the other constitutional check on the President’s emergency powers — “A state of martial law does not suspend the operation of the Constitution, nor supplant the functioning of the civil courts or legislative assemblies” — does not appear anywhere in Sigaw’s constitution.
Consequently, Mrs. Arroyo can declare martial law, get parliament’s approval for it, and then turn right around to suspend the Constitution, shut down parliament and the courts, and rule by decree for as long as she wants.
I can now say, without any reservation whatsoever, that Mrs. Arroyo’s trust or confidence in her constitutionalists was not misplaced. She got exactly what she wanted from them — the power to overthrow and destroy our democracy and to rule by decree.
Then Bong Austero wishes the Subic rape victim was nicer.