Thai Shake-up Expected After Failed Coup

Times Staff Writer

Four days after a failed coup, Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda met Friday with his coalition partners amid signs of a Cabinet shake-up.

Deputy Prime Minister Prachuap Suntharangkun said the decision rested with Prem.

There were rumors that the National Democratic Party, a member of the ruling coalition, might be dropped in a reshuffle of Cabinet posts. The party’s leader, former Prime Minister Kriangsak Chomanan, has been implicated as a possible participant in Monday’s coup attempt, which resulted in five deaths and nearly 60 wounded.

Interior Minister Sitthi Chirarot said Friday that no arrests had been made because the police are still investigating.

The ringleader, Manoon Roopkachorn, 50, was flown out of the country on a Thai air force plane Monday afternoon in a deal with pro-government officers to prevent further fighting and end the coup attempt. Manoon, then an armored unit commander, took part in the abortive “young Turks” coup against the Prem government in 1981 and was subsequently dismissed from the military.


Seeking U.S. Asylum

He was last reported in Singapore and has asked for asylum in the United States. His brother, Manas, an air force officer who took part in Monday’s coup attempt, has also reportedly left the country.

Deputy army commander Tienchai Sirisamphun, who led the pro-government forces in the absence of armed forces commander Arthit Kamlang-ek, said the brothers were allowed to flee because “we had to race against time. . . . We could not afford to take the risk of allowing the situation to snowball.”

“This was a complicated affair,” Tienchai said.

The situation remains confused, and a state of emergency continues. It is unclear how the coup leaders could hope to stage a successful coup with only 400 to 500 troops and about 20 tanks. Speculation centers on involvement by higher military officers, but none has been publicly accused.

On Friday, Arthit, who returned from Europe the day after the coup, told his troops to ignore rumors and to obey their commanders.

Former Generals Involved

Three former generals were in the rebel headquarters on Monday: Kriangsak, Serm Na Nakhon and Yos Thephasdin. Serm read several of the rebels’ pronouncements over Radio Thailand, which the rebels briefly captured, but he and the others have insisted they were unwilling participants.

They have been questioned by a police committee conducting the investigation. Also questioned were five labor leaders who allegedly tried to incite workers to join the rebels.

Air force commander Praphan Dhupatemiya was also at rebel headquarters Monday. He said Thursday he had been forcibly taken from his home at gunpoint.

Meanwhile, services were held Thursday for two National Broadcasting Co. newsmen killed by tank gunfire in the brief outburst of shooting Monday--Neil Davis, 52, an Australian cameraman and the network’s Bangkok bureau chief, and his American sound man, William Latch, 35.

Speaking at the rites, Bruce Mac Donell, NBC manager for Asia, called on the military to “identify the people who were in that tank and the people who gave the order to fire. . . . Place them under arrest and try them for murder.”

He said television film showed the tank gunners apparently aimed at the newsmen at point-blank range. “What we have before us is a pretty fair case that murder was done here,” Mac Donell said.