THAILAND'S ARMY commander took over the reins of government from Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra after staging a military coup in the Thai capital on Tuesday. An announcement on national television, signed by Army Commander-in-Chief General Sondhi Boonyaratkalin, said martial law had been declared across Thailand. He ordered all troops to report to their duty stations and not leave without permission from their commanders.
Earlier, Sondhi's troops circled Thaksin's offices with tanks, seizing control of television stations and declaring a provisional authority loyal to the king.
The announcement declared that a "Council of Administrative Reform" with King Bhumibol Adulyadej as head of state had seized power in Bangkok and nearby provinces without any resistance.
An army general, speaking on condition of anonymity, said troops were moved from the western province of Kanchanaburi to stage the coup. Army spokesman Colonel Akara Chitroj told reporters that Deputy Prime Minister Chitchai Wannasathit had been removed from his post. "The government is no longer administering the country," he said. "I think Thaksin will not return to Thailand for the time being," he said, without elaborating what would happen if Thaksin returned.
The general said the coup makers arrested Chitchai and Defence Minister Thammarak Isaragura na Ayuthaya -- two close loyalists of Thaksin -- and that Chitchai agreed to resign.
In a vain attempt to stave off the coup, Thaksin had ordered Sondhi to report to Chitchai immediately, effectively dismissing him from his military duties. Thaksin told of his move when he declared a state of emergency in Bangkok. He is in New York for the UN General Assembly meeting.