THE COUP D’ETAT IN SEPTEMBER 2006
Thailand was a constitutional monarchy until the sudden coup on September 19, 2006. The King was well respected and it was a crime to insult any of the Royal Family. The Thai King recently celebrated 60 years on the throne and millions of Thai citizens commemorated the event and showed their reverence by donning yellow t-shirts and/or by wearing yellow wrist bands – the official royal colour. The government is now a military junta headed by Sonthi Boonyaratglin (RTGS: Sonthi Bunyaratkalin). On 1 October 2006, the junta named Surayud Chulanont (RTGS: Surayut Chulanon) as the prime minister of the interim government.
On September 19, 2006, the Royal Thai Army led by Army Commander General Sonthi Boonyaratglin seized control of key government buildings and television stations in Bangkok. At the time, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra (RTGS: Thaksin Chinawat) was in New York for a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. At least 50 soldiers entered the Government House building. Television stations were ordered to broadcast music written by King Bhumibol Adulyadej (RTGS: Phumiphon Adunyadet) and displayed images of the royal family. Caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, in an effort to counter-act the coup, declared from New York that Bangkok was in a “severe state of emergency”, and vowed to return to the country as soon as possible. He also removed the Army Commander from his position, and ordered military forces not to “move illegally.” . His broadcast was abruptly shut off.
Later, the Thai armed forces and police force declared the creation of the Council for Democratic Reform of the Constitutional Monarchy, and announced that it had taken control of Bangkok. The military declared martial law, abrogated the Thai Constitution, and suspended Parliament.extralegal arrests were made and the wide spread censorship of media was authorised. A ban of civil rights was put into action and the abandonment of supreme law was almost instant. The world media have adopted a view that this coup was merely a “slip in, slip out” operation (BBC Correspondant). . However, the evidence above would suggest otherwise.
1997 saw the first real constitution of Thailand and reflected popular desires. With the abolishment of this constitution in 2006, the junta have undermind democracy as well as decades of work and bloodshead spent and spilt, respectively, by the people of Thailand.
Although the Constitutional court has been suspended, the Royal Thai Army, the Palace Consulates around the world have denied any functional loss. The Royal Thai Consulate General in Hong Kong stated; “The courts…function as normal, with the exception of the Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court has been suspended in the absence of the 1997 Constitution.” . In an attached statement, the consulate added that the coup group had promised to “uphold the principles of the UN and other international organisations under international treaties and agreements.” .
Meanwhile, Army forces took strategic positions around the capital, occupying key intersections. Additionally, all unauthorized military movements were banned, and all soldiers were ordered to report to their duty stations. Military forces wore yellow ribbons, both on their uniforms and weapons, to identify themselves and communicate loyalty to the King. The CDRM has since revised its English name to avoid the appearance that the coup was sanctioned by the King. It is now known as the Council for Democratic Reform (CDR).
While reactions in Bangkok generally supported the results of the coup if not the methods, no one knows the reaction of people outside of Bangkok due to the tight media restrictions, although it is generally accepted that people in rural areas oppose the coup. In order to suppress any opposition, a complete ban on political activities and political gatherings of more than 5 people has been ordered, under penalty of up to 6 months in prison. . Several protestors were arrested. In addition the media has been banned from expressing any opinion that is contrary to, or critical of the new junta, shut down hundreds of community radio stations, and shut down at least one website. Although the public may appear to be unaffected by this reform, the fact that the change is constitutional, not physical does not make it any less deplorable.
A coup of any sort is essentially against the law. The junta had no real authority to launch a coup. The junta themselves have expressed an understanding of the fact that their movement has broken the law. During an interview with the UK newspaper: ‘The Times’ â Major General Thawup Netnyam said: “[the coup] is against the law…But sometimes, to break the deadlock, someone has to do something.”
Even though the junta themselves have questioned the legality of the coup, they have addressed this by granting the leaders a blanket amnesty in the interim constitution. This is something which the UN have recently made clear is against international law. .
The junta have also appointed their own appointees to advisory panels, who have only been informed of the decision when they have seen it announced on their TV screens. Not only are the junta appointing who they like to advisory panels, but yet again, breaking the 1997 constitution by appointing constitutional court judges themselves. In no way is the public allowed to have a say.
The EU, the USA, and many other nations initially condemned the coup as unnecessary and contrary to democracy, but have resisted calling for the immediate restoration of the elected government. Human Rights groups (see AHRC) also expressed concerns regarding the right to free speech, and the right to protest and engage in political activities, all of which were curtailed by the military coup leaders.
A new Prime Minister was sworn in on 1 October 2006, and Thailand’s king swore in a post-coup cabinet, chosen by new Prime Minister Gen Surayud Chulanont on 9 October 2006.