From our man in Bangkok – Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratglin, leader of the Thai armed forces who seized power last night has vowed to “restore democracy under the king”.
The General promised today to step aside within two weeks to make way for democracy.
In the absence of a government or constitution the King is now de facto absolute monarch.
The bloodless coup, which was achieved with only ten tanks and no shots fired, has now been acknowledged as complete by the ousted Prime Minister who will remain in New York.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinwatra has been in an increasingly tenuous position in recent months following widespread allegations of corruption.
His ‘snap’ election victory last year was legally declared void after it was boycotted by all the opposition parties following the Prime Minister’s use of the government machine to silence their campaigns.
Since then, he has essentially been without a mandate and has been increasingly brazen in using his government influence for the benefit of his mobile phone empire. There have been large public rallies and demonstrations against him and his family dominated government.
While normal broadcasting has yet to be resumed on domestic television, the General expressed his regret for the “inconvenience” caused and declared today a Bank Holiday.
Major national institutions aside, Thais in Bangkok and across the country went to work this morning as normal and all civilian infrastructure was running undisturbed.
The General also stated that the army would hold power for a maximum of two weeks, that His Majesty, now legally in total power, would act to appoint an interim cabinet and that fresh elections could be planned and held as soon as possible.
World opinion has been divided by the coup, with most nations expressing concern for internal stability and the preservation of democracy. That the country was already being led by a Prime Minister without a mandate has and cannot be disputed.
His Majesty has yet to make a public statement on the coup but is widely expected to not overtly take sides. Rather, he is expected to be the unifying voice and ensure the return of the democratic process and the drawing up of an interim constitution.
The former Prime Minister, while originally bullish about his position has now been quoted as saying he will not be returning to Thailand and will instead be focusing on his business interests.
Last night I remained strictly neutral while this coup unfolded.
Today however, has seen the country continue to function normally; there has been no civil unrest, and both the AP and Reuters suggest that most people are happy at the actions of the army. His Majesty is secure and a manifestly corrupt government has been removed.
Providing the King, the most popular and respected figure in the country, plays a real and central role in the future government of Thailand and Gen. Boonyaratglin makes good on his two week deadline, I see no reason why the coup should not be seen as a good thing.
I stress: this is not ‘party line’ at the RCC where opinions are traded amongst equals. Others may feel free to disagree.