The New Year bombs that killed three people in the Thai capital were part of a concerted bid to undermine the post-coup government, the army chief said on Friday after rumours of another military putsch swept the jittery city.
"It is a movement to disrupt the national security, the society and the economy," Sondhi Boonyaratklin, who staged a September 19 coup against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, said on army-run Channel 5 television.
Late on Thursday, as rumours of major movements of about 2,000 troops at 300 spots around Bangkok sped through its 9 million inhabitants, Sondhi denied any plots to unseat the post-coup administration and the Council for National Security (CNS), as the coup command is now called.
As a measure of the panic, one theory was that the CNS was staging a coup against itself to boost its prestige and status after a problem-strewn three months in charge, which culminated in the unprecedented New Year's Eve bombings.
"These losers are doing everything they can to discredit the September 19 coup. They are doing everything to show that the country is in chaos and the CNS can't restore peace as we have promised," Sondhi said.
"They are trying to tell the people that the CNS and the government have no credibility."
The streets were normal during the morning rush-hour, but his appeal for calm looked unlikely to ease the concerns of investors, who dumped Thai stocks for the third straight day.
"Sentiment has been poor, with a fairly slim chance of seeing a rebound anytime soon. People are scared and panicky.
There has been so much bad news there has been broad panic selling," Chaiyaporn Nompitakcharoen of Bualuang Securities said.
By 1015 hrs, the Thai bourse — Asia's worst performer of 2006 — had fallen 2.3 per cent.
That followed a 4.5 per cent fall in the first two trading days of 2007 amid fears the bombs, which wounded 38 people, presaged a year of violent political upheaval.