Thai King Throws Support to Coup Leaders
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
The king of Thailand has thrown his support behind the army general who carried out yesterday's bloodless coup. In an announcement read on state run television today, the king said he had appointed the army chief as head of the transitional council of administrative reform. The king is a revered figure in Thailand, and his endorsement of the coup should help quell fears of violence from supporters of the ousted prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.
NPR's Michael Sullivan reports from Bangkok.
MICHAEL SULLIVAN: One of the few upsides to a military coup is a lack of traffic on the road and on rivers like Bangkok's Chao Phraya, a major thoroughfare that flows through the heart of the city.
(Soundbite of whistling)
SULLIVAN: Water taxis ply the choppy Chao Phraya at rush hour this evening, but there were far fewer commuters than normal, with banks, government offices and schools all closed by the military. Ardela Ferosh Kareshi(ph) says his commute was a snap.
Mr. ARDELA FEROSH KARESHI: It's quiet. It's like a Sunday. It's like everyone's either stayed at home or they've gone to their retreats outside of Bangkok -for the people who are with means. I think for the people who have no means, they just look at is whoopee, a day off work. Tomorrow, back to the usual.
SULLIVAN: For almost a year, the usual was political gridlock, with Prime Minister Thaksin fighting to stay in office against an opposition equally determined to see him gone. And it's that gridlock the army acted to break. Thirty-year-old Nima(ph), no last name, works at a nearby embassy. She says the army's action means that tomorrow should be both different and better.
NIMA: In my opinion, it's quite good to change the politic in Thailand. Before, we are not sure if he won't be any more the prime minister or not.
SULLIVAN: Taxi driver Chivas Pun Sawad(ph) said he likes Thaksin and much of what he did while in office. But he too thinks the political impasse has brought the country to a grinding halt and that the army's decision to remove Thaksin was the only way out.
Mr. CHIVAS PUN SAWAD: Thaksin (unintelligible). Everything is clear now. Maybe in the future, maybe we have good prime minister. Have new election.
SULLIVAN: At a news conference today, army chief Sonthi Boonyaratkalin said new elections will have to wait at least a year, but that the military would be gone much quicker.
Chief SONTHI BOONYARATKALIN (Thail army): (Speaking foreign language)
SULLIVAN: Sonthi assured the Thai people that the coup was necessary and said the military council would step aside within two weeks, handing over power to a new, interim prime minister to be picked by the military. The interim prime minister and his cabinet, Sonthi said, will supervise the writing of a new constitution. If everything goes smoothly, Sonthi says, new elections could be held by October of next year.
Michael Sullivan, NPR News, Bangkok.