Thai PM declares state of emergency amid coup rumors

[JURIST] Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra [official website; BBC profile] declared a state of emergency in Bangkok Tuesday after army tanks assembled around government buildings in the city, blocking traffic. In the face of a rumored coup in Thailand [JURIST news archive], Thaksin, who is in New York for the opening of the 61st session of the UN General Assembly, ordered the military not to "move illegally."

A television station [TV5 website] owned by the Royal Thai Army [official website] halted regular programming, instead airing patriotic images and music, an action associated with past coup attempts. Thaksin's message was broadcast over a separate government-owned television station. Thaksin said that the state of emergency was implemented with the approval of the Cabinet and that he had suspended the Thai army chief from military duties. BBC News has more. AP has additional coverage.

Thaksin has been under intense pressure to resign for several months and last week said that he "may take a break" from politics [Xinhua report; JURIST report]. Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party [party website] called parliamentary elections in April, but the results were later annulled [JURIST report] by the nation's highest courts. Several members of the Election Commission of Thailand [official website, in Thai] have been convicted [JURIST report] for violating election laws in connection with arrangements for the April elections and the Thai Rak Thai party has been accused of election fraud [JURIST report], though Thaksin has denied those allegations [JURIST report]. New elections are scheduled for November.

12:28 PM ET - AP is now reporting that the military has launched a coup attempt, declaring a provisional authority. According to an announcement on Thai television, a "Council of Administrative Reform" has taken power in Bangkok and surrounding provinces. The announcement named King Bhumibol Adulyadej [official profile] as head of state. AP has more. The Thai government website is currently carrying a picture of Defense Minister General Thammarak Isarangura [official profile] and a brief message apparently denying the coup rumors.

1:45 PM ET - AP is now reporting that the commander of the Thai army has taken over control of the government and declared martial law.

 

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