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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 September 2006, 17:10 GMT 18:10 UK
Thai coup leader unveils PM plans
Thai soldier near Government House in Bangkok, with roses received from a wellwisher
Troops remain visible on Bangkok's streets
The leader of the military coup in Thailand has said a new prime minister will be named within two weeks.

Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin said new elections would be held in a year, once a new constitution had been written.

A statement read on state television said Thailand's king had endorsed Gen Sonthi as temporary leader, although the monarch has not spoken in person.

The coup was staged late on Tuesday as PM Thaksin Shinawatra was in New York. He has now arrived in London.

Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin
We have two weeks. After two weeks, we will step out
Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin
Coup leader

The British Foreign Office says the ousted leader is visiting as a private citizen. He is thought to be planning to meet family members.

The Bush administration was "disappointed" in the coup, White House press secretary Tony Snow said on Wednesday

He called for a speedy restoration of democracy in Thailand and said talks on a US free trade agreement with Thailand depended on this taking place.

The coup followed months of growing tension in Thailand, with protests against Mr Thaksin and a general election which was annulled due to concerns about its legitimacy.

So far, reporters in Thailand say the atmosphere remains calm and no outbreaks of violence have been reported.

New constitution

In the news conference on Wednesday evening, Gen Sonthi claimed he was acting in line with the wishes of the Thai people, blaming government mismanagement for forcing coup leaders to act.

But he denied the military wanted a permanent hold on power, attempting to reassure his audience by putting a deadline on how long he would remain in power.

"We have two weeks. After two weeks, we will step out," he said.

He said coup leaders were considering candidates to appoint as the new prime minister, who would rule until fresh elections in a year's time.

The people of Bangkok largely seem to have welcomed the coup

In the interim, he said, a new national assembly would be appointed to draft a new, permanent constitution.

He said "fellow countryman" Mr Thaksin would be welcome to return to his homeland, but warned he could face criminal charges for corruption.

A statement on state-run television on Wednesday declared the apparent support of revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej for the coup leader.

"In order to create peace in the country, the king appoints Gen Sondhi Boonyaratkalin as head of the council of administrative reform," the statement said.

"All people should remain peaceful and civil servants should listen to order from Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin from now on."

Gen Sonthi has said the king had nothing to do with the coup. The UK's foreign office has confirmed Mr Thaksin is expected in London, "as he has relatives in the UK".

Yellow ribbons

In the capital Bangkok, tanks have cordoned off the government district. They have yellow ribbons tied around their barrels to signify loyalty to the king.

The BBC's Kate McGeown in Bangkok says on the surface it is functioning as normal. But she says there is a strange quietness about the usually vibrant city.

HAVE YOUR SAY
I think there is actually a sense of relief that this has happened and they are rid of Mr Thaksin once and for all
Roachie, Bangkok

Regional army commanders have been in charge of areas outside the capital, Bangkok, and Wednesday has been declared a public holiday.

The coup leaders have ordered provincial governors and heads of government agencies to report to them. They have also banned assemblies of more than five people, which are now punishable by six months in jail.

A statement urged "farmers and workers" - an apparent reference to Mr Thaksin's rural base of support - to remain calm.

In another move to defend against a counter-coup, a senior general said Mr Thaksin's main deputy, Chidchai Vanasathidya, had been "invited to stay" at Army headquarters on Tuesday night.

Shock and concern

Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister, Surakiart Sathirathai, told CNN Mr Thaksin was "constitutionally and legally elected" and should be returned to office.

But Mr Thaksin's official spokesman, Surapong Suebwonglee, told Associated Press news agency: "We have to accept what happened. We are not coming back soon."

Thailand's regional neighbours expressed shock and concern at the events, and the US urged Thais to resolve their differences peacefully.

It is the first coup attempt in 15 years in a country where they used to be commonplace. There were 17 of them between 1932 and 1991.




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Tanks on the streets of the Thai capital Bangkok



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