Bangkok: Thailand's new military leaders, who overthrew Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and are moving to purge his followers, Thursday banned political party meetings and the establishment of new parties.
With Thaksin laying low in London, the coup makers also moved to place the tycoon-turned-politician's vast assets under scrutiny, amid mounting calls for his prosecution for alleged corruption.
Thaksin said he would take a "deserved rest," and urged the military to quickly arrange for new national elections. In a statement released in London, he urged "all parties to find ways and means to reconcile and work towards national reconciliation for the sake of our king and country," but did not say if he planned to return.
Thaksin's decline began about a year ago when a popular movement called for his resignation for alleged corruption and abuse of power. Critics allege that the former telecommunications chief took advantage of his position as head of government to enrich himself and his associates.
Less than 48 hours after the army sent tanks into the streets of Bangkok to terminate Thaksin's tenure, the Thai capital returned to normalcy yesterday with businesses reopening and roads jammed with traffic.
Army commander General Sonthi Boonyaratglin has said he would serve as de facto prime minister for two weeks and then the Council of Administrative Reform will choose a civilian to replace him. A constitution is to be drawn up and elections held in one year's time.
Despite condemnation of the coup by Western and some Asian governments, the new leadership is seen by some as the best chance to resolve a bloody Muslim insurgency in the south that has killed more than 1,700 people.
An exiled Muslim rebel leader yesterday welcomed Thaksin's overthrow by Sonthi, a Muslim in a predominantly Buddhist country.
China: Coup Complicates UN Race
In the United Nations, China's UN ambassador said the coup complicates Thaksin's candidacy to be the next UN secretary-general.
China's Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing (L) meets with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan during the 61st General Assembly of the United Nations at the United Nations headquarters in New York September 21, 2006. [Reuters]
The race to succeed Secretary-General Kofi Annan, whose second five-year term ends Dec. 31, is one of the hottest behind-the-scenes issues at the UN General Assembly.
Thai Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai was the first candidate to enter the race, and he won backing from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations at last year's General Assembly ministerial meeting.
Surakiart was in New York with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra when the military launched a bloodless coup Tuesday. He flew to London with the former prime minister, and was due back in Thailand Thursday.
"The interim government has already said that they continue to back Dr. Surakiart as the secretary-general," Sihasak Phuangketkeow, the Thai Foreign Ministry's deputy permanent secretary said after a meeting on the sidelines of the General Assembly.
But China's UN Ambassador Wang Guangya said Wednesday that, "I think definitely the situation in Thailand makes this issue more complicated."
Traditionally, the United Nation's top job rotates every 10 years by region.