updated 1/4/2007 12:13:43 PM ET 2007-01-04T17:13:43

Rumors of a new coup d'etat swept Bangkok on Thursday night, but were denied by government and military authorities as tensions remained high in the Thai capital after new year bombings killed three people.

“It is impossible,” army commander Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin said when asked about the rumors in an interview on Thai TV Channel 9.

Sondhi heads the military Council for National Security, comprising top generals who seized power from elected Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in a bloodless Sep. 19 takeover. The council appointed an interim civilian government to hold power until an election can be held late this year, but continues to exercise power behind the scenes.

Earlier Thursday, interim Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont warned that the country could face more violence, but did not indicate a specific threat.

Authorities were quick to try to scotch the coup rumors, which spread widely early Thursday evening. Last September's coup was the first since 1991.

No unusual troop movements, government says
Government spokesman Capt. Yongyuth Maiyalarb said he had contacted military council members, who told him they had received no reports of an imminent coup by opponents, or of unusual troop movements.

A council spokesman, Col. Sansern Chaengkamnerd, told The Associated Press that coup rumors in the jittery capital were baseless.

“There have been transfers of troops, but it is for the purpose of providing security in Bangkok,” he said.

An AP reporter saw no unusual activity near Government House, the office of Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, or at other key locations late Thursday.

The Sunday night bombings — whose perpetrators remain unknown — had already resulted in a higher troop presence in Bangkok, especially at bus stations, airports and other transportation hubs.

Since the coup, the military has suggested that Thaksin's supporters have been trying to destabilize the country in a bid to regain power. It has strongly suggested, without specifically saying so, that Thaksin's backers were responsible for the bombings — a charge the former leader denies.

However, there has also been speculation that the military might want to take complete power for itself because it may be dissatisfied with the performance of the interim civilian government it installed after the coup.

Asked on TV whether the military council itself was responsible for the bombings, Sondhi said, “I have risked myself to do what the people wished. Why should I do that? I love my people and my country.”

He was apparently referring to his leadership of the coup, which followed months of massive public protests demanding Thaksin step down because of alleged corruption and abuse of power.

Bombings bedevil military
The failure to catch the bombing perpetrators has been seen as discrediting the military.

The interim government has also drawn criticism for failing to solve several major problems, including an Islamic insurgency in the south and the rising value of Thailand's baht currency, which has made the country's exports more expensive to buyers.

The failure to restore peace in the south and the Bangkok bombings have raised fears that the insurgents campaign may be spreading out of their own territory — the country's three southernmost, Muslim-dominated provinces. Almost 2,000 people have died in violence there in the past three years.

However, no evidence has been released linking anyone to the bombings, and the government has said it is unlikely they were the work of southern insurgents.

Surayud on Thursday acknowledged that his government had received advance intelligence about two of the bombing attacks, but said he was still unsure of who the culprits are.

Speaking to the country's interim legislature, he said the intelligence had helped avert further casualties from the attacks, which also wounded more than 40, including nine foreign tourists.

Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, a former prime minister and Thaksin ally, accused the military of mishandling the case.

“This government is like a new driver who does not know how to drive and puts the blame on others when an accident occurs,” Chavalit said Wednesday.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments