Thaksin overthrown in bloodless coup
Thai coup leader pledges elections in one year; hints Thaksin could face prosecution
Denis D. Gray
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 hinted that ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra may face
Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin 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, accused of
corruption and undermining democratic institutions, was abroad.
Army Commander-in-Chief Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin speaks during a press
conference in Bangkok Wednesday, Sept. 20 (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Asked if there would be moves to confiscate Thaksin’s vast assets, Sondhi
said at a news conference that “those who have committed wrongdoings have to
be prosecuted according to the law.” He did not elaborate.
A British government spokesman said Thaksin was en route to Britain, but had
no meetings scheduled with Prime Minister Tony Blair or other officials.
“Any citizen of the world is free to visit the United Kingdom providing
their paperwork is in order,” he said on condition of anonymity, in line
with government policy.
“He can come spend his money at Harrods if he wants to,” the spokesman said,
referring to the famous up-market London department store.
A reporter for state-owned Thai radio station MCOT who was traveling with
Thaksin said he boarded a flight from New York - where he’d canceled a
scheduled address to the U.N. General Assembly - to London, where the
tycoon-turned-politician has a residence.
in Bangkok presented roses to soldiers as a sign of moral support. (AP
Sondhi 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
Thailand will hold a general election in October 2007, he said.
Sondhi 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.
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!”
The newly created Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional
Monarchy 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
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. Military public
relations officials said they could not immediately comment.
The overthrow was needed “to resolve the conflict and bring back normalcy
and harmony among people,” Sondhi 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
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.
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. He is not seeking asylum,”
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.”
moved by the turn of events a man brings his young daughter to hand out
roses to soldiers involved in the military coup (AP Photo/Ed Wray)
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 insurgency in south Thailand.
A few dozen people raced over to the prime minister’s office overnight to
photograph the tanks.
“This is exciting. Someone had to do this. It’s the right thing,” said
Somboon Sukheviriya, 45, a software developer snapping pictures with his
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.
Sondhi, 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 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.
Associated Press reporters Jocelyn Gecker, Sutin Wannabovorn, Rungrawee C.
Pinyorat and Alisa Tang contributed to this story.
Pattaya to invest 350 million baht to end flooding
Flooding was especially deep
on Pattaya’s main roads.
Vimolrat Singnikorn and Noppadon Chaichana
Just as Pattaya’s citizens were beginning to get a handle on the clean up
from the September 12 floods, worse flooding hit the area in the early
morning hours of September 14.
Heavy rains, beginning around 3 a.m. Sept 14 and continuing non-stop for
hours, caused heavy flooding of streets, houses and shops. The rains were
brought in by a depression in the North China Sea, and proved to be too much
for Pattaya’s drainage system.
The flooding was especially heavy along Pattaya’s main roads. There was
severe traffic congestion along First, Second and Third roads, and vehicles
came to a standstill in many areas. Police and volunteers eventually closed
the roads to traffic.
In other areas including Soi Buakhao, Soi Taeng Mo, Naklua Market and Soi
Pacific, floodwaters were 60-80 centimeters deep. Sand along many stretches
of the beaches was washed away and trees in beach areas were felled.
Pattaya was not the only area to suffer, as many other areas of Thailand
were affected. In the lower central region, Bangkok and Greater Bangkok
experienced heavy rain, as did provinces including Ratchaburi, Rayong,
Kanchanaburi, Prachinburi, Sra Kaew, Phetchaburi, Chumphorn, Surat Thani,
Ranong, Phang Nga and areas of Chonburi.
Mayor Niran Wattanasartsathorn said the floods in Pattaya City were caused
by high seas and drainage systems that were unable to cope with the heavy
rains. He said that Pattaya isn’t ignoring the problem and city officials
are urgently assisting those affected.
Relief services were mobilized to provide over 350 packs of dry rice and
other supplies to flood victims in the Soi Post Office Community in Naklua.
Deputy Mayor Wattana Chantanawaranon led these relief efforts to
householders whose homes had been damaged by the floodwaters.
Wattana said that he and Mayor Niran Wattanasartsathorn had gone out to
inspect all of the stricken areas during the day, and administrators and
councilors had been directed to supply support to the victims.
However, handing out bags of rice, although welcome by some, was a rather
weak response and does nothing to address the loss of business suffered by
merchants in the flooded areas, or the major damage inflicted upon
automobiles, household appliances and structural damage to houses, nor does
it address individual clean up of the mud and smell left after the floods
receded. What people needed more was to know what happened and whether or
not it will happen the next time it rains.
Naklua resident Nanthawat Shuaymee summed it up: “I would like to see the
city implement long-term measures to put an end to the flooding, as the
floods damaged my property and furniture.”
Virat Jirasripaithoon, director of Pattaya’s sanitary department, said that
heavy rains were not the only cause of the floods, as rain water flowing in
from Nongprue and Nong Plalai congregates in Pattaya, as the two districts
are located higher than Pattaya.
“The water that flowed in amassed in Central Pattaya, Soi Lengki and Soi
Buakhao. Drainage pipes in these sois have a diameter of 4 meters and could
only drain off about 10% of the 10,000 cubic meters of accumulated water …
the city currently only has two drainage points to drain water into the sea,
at Sapan Yao (Long Bridge) Naklua and the South Pattaya Canal near the Siam
Bayshore Hotel. This is the reason that water was drained off slower than it
fell,” said Virat.
Virat also said that the Water Treatment Plant treats water and then
releases it into the sea. He said during heavy flooding, the city turns on
two drainage pumps located at Walking Street and Bali Hai Pier. The drainage
pipes at these two locations are 12 inches in diameter and are assisted by
six pumps. During high seas, the pumps cannot be switched on because the
water just flows back on itself and damages the pumps.
Virat went on to say that the city does have long-term plans to prevent
flooding, and is in the process of requesting a 350 million baht budget for
the 2007 fiscal year to implement a “flood prevention” project. This will
involve constructing barriers to block water flowing into Pattaya at five
points, namely: Soi Wat Thamsamakki, Soi Nernplabwan, Soi Khaonoi, Soi Haa
Thanwa, and Siam Country Club Road, all located outside Pattaya’s city
boundaries. A lake will be dug on 21 rai of land at Huay Yai and the water
flowing into Pattaya blocked off at the above five points will be directed
there, then fed into reservoirs for further use.
Arunrasamee Boonkerd, chief of Pattaya’s social services, said she and city
officials are worried as much as anybody about these flooding problems. She
said city hall deployed workers from the public health department, social
welfare department, and life guard unit to go out help flood victims. She
said the city has distributed hundreds of sand bags to house and shop owners
situated in flood prone areas, as well as daily necessities and first aids
Arunrasamee also said that city officials have contacted the Redemptorist
Vocational Training School for the Disabled to help fix, for free, flood
victims’ electrical devices, such as television sets, refrigerators,
computers and stereos that were ruined by the water.
Meanwhile, the rainy season doesn’t officially end until mid-October.
Pattaya has a new waterfall!
But thank goodness it was only temporary.
Traffic was at a standstill on
2nd Road behind Royal Garden Plaza. (Photo courtesy of Ron Gingerich)
Businesses within city limits
suffered heavy losses.
PBTA urges action on crime before high season begins
The Pattaya Business and Tourism Association is worried about the effect
that crime might have on tourism during the coming high season.
Mayor Niran Wattanasartsathorn held a meeting at city hall on September
6 to try and find ways of combating the growing crime menace. Niran said
that this is top of the agenda for this year, and cutting the crime rate
is essential for the protection of tourists and their property.
President Thanet Supornsahasrungsri says that the city and police need
to do more to reduce the crime rate in Pattaya.
The meeting was attended by Pol Col Noppadon Sornsumrarn, superintendent
of Banglamung police station, Pol Col Ittipol Ittisarnronnachai,
superintendent of Pattaya Immigration, Pol Lt Col Nattasit Boonnuam,
deputy superintendent of crime suppression at Pattaya police station,
Pol Lt Col Wutthichat Luaensucant, inspector of Tourist Police 4, and
PBTA president Thanet Supornsahasrungsri.
Thanet said that at the PBTA’s monthly meeting in August, members had
raised the problem of crimes such as snatch-and-run thieving and
mugging, and the nuisance caused by prostitutes and transvestites on the
beach at night.
All of these problems affect tourism, he said, and business people in
Pattaya are very concerned. The high season will begin shortly, and the
PBTA is requesting city hall to make a formal request to all its
relevant departments and offices to lay out a plan that would in a
realistic fashion tackle the crime rate.
Mayor Niran said that Pattaya City has never ignored these problems. If
the tourists were unsafe during their stay in Pattaya, then that would
have a negative effect on the city’s world tourism image. Tourists would
regard Pattaya as an insecure tourism area, and not suitable for their
The way to combat the problem is to set up a committee to lay out a
methodical plan, and this will be done by inviting the police and all
associated officers to a discussion together. This would then go forward
to project status where it would be submitted to the Pattaya City
Council for budget approval.
The meeting appointed Deputy Mayor Ronakit Ekasingh to head the
committee, as he is responsible for peacekeeping activities in Pattaya
In the interim, police patrols have been stepped up along Beach Road
during the evenings, starting from 6 p.m.
City Scope: High-speed internet service will link all official units
City hall is working on a project that will speed electronic communications
between all official departments and offices.
city is in the process of setting up the high speed Pattaya City Electronic
Level 2 Project to better serve citizens.
On September 6, Deputy Mayor Verawat Khakhay chaired a meeting at Pattaya
City Hall for the Pattaya City Electronic Level 2 project, attended by
members of the committee for information and electronic development.
Verawat said that the Pattaya City Electronic Level 1 project had set out a
plan to install and link all equipment in all official units. The meeting
today was a preparation for Level 2. Chokchai Ubonmuang, software manager of
the ITSP joint venture, described the technical aspects of the project.
Internet access is currently slow in all official units, which is
inconvenient for the public, so the intention is to install a high-speed
system. The plan is also to link to a server at Pattaya City Hall along with
the Public Health Disaster Center and the 10 schools in Pattaya City.
Australian who splashed vendors is beaten with iron bar
An Australian visitor who became involved in a dispute with four vendors was
attacked by them and beaten with an iron bar, suffering injuries that
included a broken left leg.
Police went to the scene at the entrance to Soi Post Office on Beach Road
after receiving a report that four men had surrounded Michael Bernard Moane
and assaulted him. Moane, age 38, was hit with a one-foot long iron bar. He
was transferred to Pattaya Memorial Hospital for treatment.
Ms Sawiwan Nonpanya, Moane’s 32-year-old girlfriend, said that he regularly
came to Pattaya for business and that on this latest visit he had been here
for more than a month. They were staying at the Nova Park Hotel. Moane went
out at 7 p.m. to buy something at Royal Garden Plaza. It started raining, so
he sought shelter and had a drink at a bar on Soi Post Office.
After the rain stopped he continued on his way, and Sawiwan said that when
he tried to avoid a muddy puddle he accidentally splashed a group of men,
who became angry. They took an iron umbrella handle and a wooden stick and
hit out at him, breaking his left leg and injuring his right leg. Then they
fled. People from nearby baht buses helped Moane before he was rushed to
The three thugs wai their
victim, who lies in hospital with a broken leg.
The assault happened on September 12. On September 15,
Pol Col Somnuk Changate, superintendent at Pattaya police station received
an order from Pol Lt Gen Jongrak Juthanon, commander of Region 2 that he
must bring in the attackers. To this end, Pol Maj Gen Rapeepat Panlawong,
deputy commander of Region 2, and Pol Maj Gen A-Nan Charoenchasri, commander
of the Chonburi Provincial Constabulary, joined the investigating team and
tracked down the attackers.
Police officers were able to arrest three of them: Tawatchai Siwaprapa, 34,
of Paholyothin Road, Ladyao, Jatuchak, Bangkok; A-morn Saelim, 27, of
Nongprue; and a man identified only as Supakorn, 29, of Nongprue. The fourth
gang member, identified as Sit (unknown surname), is still at large.
All three accused men stated that they were CD and watch vendors at the
scene. Michael Moane had attempted to avoid a muddy puddle at the beginning
of the soi by jumping on the tricycle they used for transporting goods, and
he accidentally broke the wooden board on it. The group told Moane he had to
pay for the damage, and they demanded 1,000 baht. There was, however, a
communications problem, and Moane walked away from the group. They became
angry and surrounded him, beating him with an iron bar. They then
disappeared before the police could arrest them.
Police charged the three men with assault and injury. The three asked police
officers to take them to Pattaya Memorial Hospital to ask Moane to drop the
charges against them, and when they met the injured man they saluted him
with a wai.
Moane said that he was a property developer in Australia, building and
selling houses. He came to Thailand and lent his hand to cooperatively
construct homes for disaster victims in Phuket. He had also made donations
to the Pattaya Orphanage.
Mayor Niran visited Moane and presented him with a basket of flowers. The
mayor said that he regretted the incident and apologized to Michael on
behalf of the Thai people in Pattaya. He condemned the perpetrators for
having committed such a violent act against our visitors and ordered the
police to arrest the remaining accomplice and charge them to the full extent
of the law. The mayor said that such acts were detrimental to the image of
Pattaya especially in matters of tourism.
British man arrested for statutory rape of 12-year-old girl
A British national was arrested by the tourist police on September 14 on
charges of the statutory rape of a 12-year-old girl, following the issue of
an arrest warrant by Pattaya Provincial Court.
Martin Garry Ward is remanded to custody for the alleged statutory rape of a
Pol Lt Gen Panya Mamen, commander-in-chief of the tourist police, together
with superintendent of the tourist police headquarters Pol Col Supapol
Arunsit and tourist police inspector Pol Lt Col Wuttichart Luaensucant, led
a team of officers into the Condo Housing Authority Building on Thepprasit
Road at 1 a.m. to seize Martin Garry Ward, aged 40.
Ward was charged with having sex with a girl under the age of 15, whether or
not she consented, in connection with the alleged statutory rape of a
12-year-old girl given the alias of Miss Or, it being alleged he paid 2,000
baht to the girl for her services. Taken to Pattaya Tourist Police Station
for questioning, Ward denied the charges.
Ward had previously been arrested on September 20 last year for possession
of 10kg of dry hashish stick, a Class 5 narcotic, when he was also found to
be in possession of 160 packs of Viagra.
Reporter who had gold necklace snatched says this type of crime happens daily
A reporter who had his gold necklace snatched by motorcycle thieves has
complained to Pattaya police station that this type of robbery happens on a
daily basis and that the police are not managing to suppress it.
Somboon Panit, 42, a resident of Suk-Em Village in Soi Kaonoi, reported on
September 14 that a thief had snatched his 3-baht gold chain, valued at
40,000 baht. Somboon filed a report with the tourist police station. He
stated that he was a local reporter and that after finishing work he went
back home with his friend by motorcycle. He was the passenger. They rode to
the front of Mike Shopping Mall in South Pattaya, and two men came up beside
them on a blue-gray Honda Wave and snatched his gold necklace.
He chased the thieves in the direction of Central Pattaya, and then towards
Sukhumvit Road but lost them when they turned into Soi Kaonoi. Somboon said
he could remember part of the motorbike number plate, and that he remembered
the faces of the thieves.
He further said that in Pattaya police station’s jurisdiction, chain
snatching occurred every day and that there were over 100 cases a month. Yet
the police cannot suppress this type of robbery. He suggested that the
police chiefs concentrate on preventing snatch-and-run theft for the peace
of mind of locals and tourists alike.