Irish in Thailand advised to avoid protests

Wednesday 20 September 2006 22.53
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Sonthi Boonyaratglin - New PM within two weeks
Sonthi Boonyaratglin - New PM within two weeks
Thailand - TV address following coup
Thailand - TV address following coup

The Department of Foreign Affairs has issued advice to Irish citizens in Thailand, or about to visit the country, to avoid any street protests following yesterday's military coup.

The department said martial law was in force throughout the country and advised all Irish citizens to stay indoors.

The leader of the coup, General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, has said the army will appoint a new Prime Minister within two weeks and will then step back from power.

However, it may take up to a year to produce a new constitution to allow fresh elections.

Tanks are still deployed at key buildings in the capital, Bangkok, but the city is calm with people going about their normal business.

The coup leaders have banned public gatherings and imposed controls on the media. All banks, markets and schools remain closed as the military has declared a national holiday.

The ousted Thai Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawat, arrived in London this evening where he has a home.

He flew in from New York where he cancelled an address to the UN General Assembly on hearing of the coup.

King gives backing to coup

Last night General Sonthi met with King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who in the past has given his blessing to coup leaders.

It is understood the king has endorsed the general as the head of an interim governing council.

In a statement on state television, King Bhumibol said he had appointed General Sonthi for 'the sake of the nation's peace and order'.

The seizure of power by General Sonthi, the largely Buddhist nation's first-ever Muslim army chief, came amid widespread criticism of Mr Thaksin's handling of a militant Islamic uprising in the south of the country.

More than 1,400 people have been killed in nearly three years of violence in the south and the unrest has continued to intensify despite the imposition of martial law in parts of the region.