Thai Coup Leaders Plan Elections in Six Months : Takeover: The military junta also says it wants to amend the constitution. The whereabouts of the deposed prime minister are unknown.
Thailand’s new military rulers said Sunday that they plan elections within six months to replace the civilian government that was toppled in a bloodless coup.
Bangkok and its environs remained calm, despite the presence of soldiers and police at key installations since the start of the coup at midday Saturday. There were no reports of resistance to the military.
There was no word on what has happened to ousted Prime Minister Chatichai Choonhavan, who was arrested by air force officers as he prepared to leave Bangkok on Saturday for the northern city of Chiang Mai. The army said only that he is in good health.
Chatichai was detained along with his advisers and Arthit Kamlangek, the deputy defense minister designate. Arthit’s appointment to a post that exercises political authority over the military was believed to have been the final straw that led to the military takeover because he was known to be an adversary of the military command.
Newspapers on Sunday disclosed that the Thai army’s cavalry units had been confined to barracks because they were believed to be led by friends of the deposed prime minister, who was trained as a tank officer.
The military junta which took control of the government is headed by the armed forces supreme commander, Gen. Sunthorn Kongsompong, and includes the heads of the army, navy, air force and police. The junta calls itself the National Peacekeeping Council.
The military has suspended the constitution, closed the elected parliament and imposed martial law on the country.
The junta also had announced stiff press censorship and said newspapers that violate the order will be closed. But on Sunday, the censorship was repealed, and television stations resumed their normal diet of sports and game shows.
At a press conference Sunday morning, Gen. Suchinda Krapayoon, the army commander, said that the military had not yet decided whether it wants to rule the country directly or to appoint a temporary civilian administration.
“It is our intention,” Suchinda told reporters, “that both amending the constitution and holding general elections be done in six months.”
The general added that, despite the imposition of martial law, the military wants to restore democracy to the country and retain its current political system. He did not elaborate on what constitutional changes would be sought.
The junta alleged that Chatichai’s government was corrupt and that it had hurt the military by spreading unfounded rumors. It also complained about the handling of an investigation into an alleged assassination plot in 1982 that reportedly was directed against leading politicians and the royal family.
The military has pledged its continued allegiance to Thailand’s king and queen, and the leadership flew to Chiang Mai on Saturday night for a meeting with the Thai monarch. No details of their talks were released.
In foreign reaction, Australia on Sunday joined the United States in condemning the military takeover, with Prime Minister Bob Hawke declaring the “very deep hope that the military powers will avoid bloodshed or any other abuse of human rights.”