There are rumours, and news coverage, that somebody has taken control in Thailand via a provisional authority, backed by at least some military units and possibly the King. Reports have only begun to filter out of Bangkok but it appears that a coup against Caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has occurred. In the long history of turbulent Thai politics, today, 19 September 2006 marks another watershed.

(Former?) Caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is currently attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York, earlier declared a state of emergency and transferred Army Commander in Chief, General Sondhi Bunyaglarin, to the Prime Minister’s Office. This is a standard tactic for removing military opponents from positions of direct command authority. Thaksin was, he said recently, “confused” about whether to take another term as Prime Minister. Now he may not be the master of his own destiny. His declaration of a state of emergency may be too little, too late.

It remains unknown precisely which faction has moved tanks and troops in Bangkok, and, in the murky moments before the commanders take to the air, everything remains uncertain. That counter-coup forces have been mobilised seems likely.

According to The Nation,

At 10:26 pm, all TV stations are playing march music in praise of His Majesty the King as if the stations are now under control of one group.

Hundreds of media outlets across the globe are now reporting the story.

My efforts to contact well-placed friends on their phones in Bangkok have thus far failed. That the mobile phone network is down could have many explanations ranging from high usage to deliberate outage. I suspect the phone network has been disabled. Now we are left with television and online news only.

At New Mandala, Andrew and I will endeavour to provide commentary and analysis over the coming days as the situation becomes clearer.

Good live coverage is coming from Bangkok Pundit and Gnarly Kitty.

Watch this space as New Mandala brings its distinctive analysis to this unfolding story.