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Rumors in Thailand: New Coup Could Be Near; Tourism, Stock Market Off Sharply

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By John E. Carey
January 5, 2007

We have two logical choices on what to believe is going on in Thailand. First, we can accept the line offered by the military backed government, installed by a coup last year, the prior democratically elected government is seeding terror and disunity, maybe even a government takeover of its own.

Or we might choose to believe that Muslim separatist rebels, who have been actively fomenting terror in Southern Thailand, are to blame.

The government of Thailand insists that the New Year bombs that killed three people in the Thai capital of Bangkok were part of a concerted bid to undermine the post-coup government. The Thai army chief again reiterated this position on Friday.

Rumors of another military putsch swept the jittery city of Bangkok on Thursday and Friday.
"It is a movement to disrupt the national security, the society and the economy," Sonthi Boonyaratglin, who staged a September 19 coup against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, said during an appearance on Thai army-run Channel 5 television.

Late on Thursday, rumors of major movements of about 2,000 troops at 300 locations around Bangkok sped through its 9 million inhabitants.

Sonthi denied any plots to unseat the post-coup administration and the Council for National Security (CNS), as the coup of 2006 plotters are now called.

Sonthi was pressed to name the bombing suspects from New Year's Eve. "I can't identify who they are yet, but the main focus is on the people who have lost political benefits."

"Political benefits" sounds like corruption to many western newsmen and diplomats in Bangkok that we spoke to.

One western diplomat told us that, "One theory is that the CNS is staging a coup against itself to boost its prestige and status after a very difficult three months in charge. Just last week, the stock market dropped, tourism fell off and we have little evidence or answers about the New Year's Eve bombings."

"There has been so much bad news there has been broad panic selling [in the stock ,arket]," said Chaiyaporn Nompitakcharoen of Bualuang Securities.

But the government in power is still blaming the group they threw out.

"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," Sonthi said.

"They are trying to tell the people that the CNS and the government have no credibility," said Sonthi.

A Bangkok university poll released on Friday showed than many Thais, a large majority, believe there is an active effort to discredit the Thai government.

About half of 1,600 Bangkok residents polled this week said they wanted the military-appointed government to continue its work, down from 60 percent in December and 90 percent in October when it took office, Assumption University said in a statement.

"The masterminds of the bombs accomplished what they have aimed for," chief pollster Noppadon Kannika told Reuters.

"Despite the government's insistence that politicians "who have lost power" were behind the blasts, a claim most Thais take as implicating ousted prime minister Thaksin, it appears to have no concrete evidence," Reuters reporter Nopporn Wong-Anan wrote.

Wantanee in Thailand contributed to this report for Peace and Freedom.

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John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc.

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