I’m heading to the coast for a couple of days so won’t be posting. In the interim here is something from today’s Nation to mull over:
Coup leaders tighten gripTroops shifted to key locations in capital. Sonthi denies split in CNS or coup against Surayud
Troops shifted to key locations in capital. Sonthi denies split in CNS or coup against Surayud Senior Council for National Security (CNS) members moved to consolidate its power yesterday in an apparent bid to clamp down on remnants of the previous regime. Top military leaders in the junta flatly denied rumours sweeping the capital over a coup attempt to seize power from the CNS-installed Surayud government. Reported troop movements were described in a running message on Army-run TV Channel 5 as necessary “rotation” to facilitate some strategic adjustment.
Although the CNS leaders denied any bid to remove Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, several sources said it was understood that the CNS would now bypass the Surayud government in dealing with major security threats, following the New Year bomb attacks in Bangkok. The rumours revolved around deputy CNS chief Lt-Gen Saprang Kalayanamitra, but in an interview he denied plotting against Surayud, who he admitted might have been “too nice”.
“There’s only an adjustment of internal strategy so we can deal more effectively with those who have ill intentions toward the country,” Saprang said. A reliable source said that late last night, Saprang, CNS Sonthi Boonyaratglin and Surayud were meeting at the Army Headquarters in Bangkok. Sources said Saprang has been rather unhappy with the soft approach of Surayud in dealing with the remnants of the Thaksin Shinawatra regime, which has allegedly been rocking both the government and CNS.
Surayud is scheduled to travel to Chiang Mai today to take part in a charity event to raise funds for the victims of civil strife in the South. The CNS give itself more teeth by adopting a revolutionary decree empowering the prime minister to execute those who commit crimes against the country, the sources said.
Rumours have abounded about conflicts within the CNS – and between the CNS and the Surayud government – over how to deal with deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. These conflicts reportedly intensified in the wake of the bomb incidents.
Army chief and CNS head General Sonthi Boonyaratglin denied troops were mobilised from the Second Army Region base in Nakhon Ratchasima. “There’s no such movement,” the leader of the September 19 coup said.
He also dismissed speculation the September 19 coup leaders were about to stage another coup to boost its own power.
Assistant Army Commander in Chief Gen Anupong Paojinda also denied the intense rumours. He said there would neither be a coup to topple the interim leadership nor an internal coup to boost the power of the CNS.
“I can guarantee 1,000 per cent that there will be neither [type of] coup,” he said, totally denying rumours about troop mobilisation.
However, the Army did rotate troops to guard some 300 locations – with five to six men at each site – in the capital as preventive measures after the deadly bombs on New Year Eve, he said.
The latest coup rumours began on Wednesday night, following the bomb attacks in Bangkok on Sunday night. The rumours intensified yesterday evening, with 9.30pm proclaimed as the time the coup would be launched.
At about 8pm last night after the rumour had spread widely, the junta made a televised announcement on the Army-run TV 5 denying troops were being mobilised with ill-intent.
“The army urges all citizens not to believe the rumour and be confident in the junta’s ability to control the situation. By now, the Army chief General Sonthi has assured the situation is normal,” it said.
Another message run on TV5 said the Army chief would give an interview on the “Siam This Morning” programme at 6.20am today.
“Please stay tuned”, it said. The running message also sought understanding from people for any inconvenience caused by troop rotations.
One rumour had tanks rolling from Nakhon Ratchasima province in the Northeast – where the second Army region is stationed – to Bangkok, while the Army TV was relaying the message to cool down public tension.
But Lt General Sujet Watanasuk, commander of the Second Army Region, dismissed the report, saying that a certain group of ill-intentioned people had tried to spread gossip to create chaos.
“There was a rumour throughout the day that the coup would take place in the second and third Army regions. I saw no reason why the military needs to make a coup again,” he said.
A deputy chairman of the CNS also dismissed a rumour about a new coup following an alleged rift among the eight CNS members. He believed it would not happen, but said nothing would “guarantee” it would not really take place.
“The coup is unlikely to happen because all military groups understand they have the same mission – to solve the national crisis,” Air Chief Marshall Chalit Pukpasuk said.
Asked if he could tell [the public] that the coup would not take place, no matter what the condition was, Chalit said that no one could guarantee if it would not happen. But he believed that no one would stage a coup.
Apart from Chalit, the CNS members are Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin, Gen Boonsrang Niumpradit, Admiral Sathiraphan Keyanond, Gen Winai Phathiyakul, Police chief Gen Kowit Watana, Lt-Gen Anupong Paojinda and Lt-Gen Saprang Kalayanamitra.
Earlier, Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said citizens should be alert and prepare for a “new threat” to national security after the New Year bombs in Bangkok.
He said he had assigned the Internal Security Operations Command to ensure security in the capital and prevent a repeat of the bomb attacks.
Authorities had made some progress in collecting evidence that could lead to the arrest of culprits, he said.