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Last Updated: Friday, 22 September 2006, 13:32 GMT 14:32 UK
Thai king backs coup leadership
Leaders of Thailand's coup in Bangkok - 22/9/06
The new leadership is consolidating its hold on power
The leaders of Thailand's military coup have been given formal royal approval, in a special televised ceremony.

An army officer read out a royal decree of assent, before coup leader General Sonthi Boonyaratglin knelt before a portrait of the king.

The footage confirms the coup leaders' claims two days ago that the king had endorsed their new military regime.

In Bangkok, dozens of pro-democracy activists held the first protest rally since Tuesday's coup.

The gathering, outside an upmarket shopping centre, was illegal under martial law but ended without incident.

Human rights concerns

The new leadership is consolidating its grip on power, banning all political meetings and assuming legislative duties in the absence of a parliament.

It is also blocking broadcasts it deems harmful, and has threatened to shut down media that violate the new restrictions.

Patchanee Kamnak, anti-coup protester
This coup is abusing the rights of the people. We want democracy back
Patchanee Kamnek, anti-coup protester

Amnesty International has expressed concern, and called on Thailand's new leaders to safeguard human rights.

"No one should be penalised for their peaceful exercise of the rights of freedom of expression, association or assembly," the pressure group told the French news agency AFP.

The military has also continued to crack down on those close to the ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Several pro-Thaksin police officers have been removed from their posts, and at least three ministers of the deposed government are in custody. More detentions are expected in the coming days.

But the anti-coup demonstrators in Bangkok were able to protest without being arrested on Friday afternoon, despite the ban on gatherings of more than five people.

"This coup is abusing the rights of the people," said one of the protesters, Patchanee Kamnek. "We want democracy back - and we've come here to make a stand."

In a statement from London, where he is currently staying, Mr Thaksin appears to have accepted there is no going back to power, telling reporters that he planned a "deserved rest".

But he still faces many hurdles, one of which is a probe into his sometimes controversial business dealings. The coup leaders have already formed a panel to investigate allegations of corruption against Mr Thaksin and his close aides.

Possible PM candidates

Under sharp criticism from the international community for launching the coup, the new ruling council is under pressure to move fast to appoint a civilian interim prime minister.

BBC readers send in their coup pictures and experiences

Gen Sonthi has said he will resign from power in two weeks, and hand over to an interim premier until new elections are held in October 2007.

Among those being considered for the post are Supachai Panitchpakdi, chairman of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, and Pridiyathorn Devakula, the head of the central bank.

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.

Gen Sonthi has said he was acting in line with the wishes of the Thai people, accusing the old government of corruption and fostering divisions in the country.




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