Thai army chief promises new constitution in two weeks

[JURIST] Thai Army chief Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin [BBC profile; Sobaka profile], who led Tuesday's coup ousting the Thai civilian government [JURIST report], told reporters Wednesday that he will serve as acting prime minister and hopes to find a replacement prime minister and enact a temporary constitution within two weeks. Sondhi also said Thailand will hold a general parliamentary election in October 2007. Sondhi orchestrated the nonviolent coup while Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra [official website] was in New York City attending the opening of the 61st session of the UN General Assembly. When asked whether the provisional government intends to seize Thaksin's considerable assets, Sondhi said that lawbreakers will be prosecuted under the law.

In the US, Human Rights Watch (HRW) asserted that the coup threatens human rights [press release] in Thailand, saying that "[t]he return of tanks to the streets of Bangkok is clear evidence that the rights of all Thais are in jeopardy." HRW urged military leaders to "immediately restore fundamental human rights and protect those exercising their rights to free expression, association and assembly." Similarly, the Asian Human Rights Commission condemned the coup [press release], and the coup organizers' decision to dissolve the Thai Constitutional Court [official website], saying:

It has no place in Thailand at a time that parliamentary democracy, despite difficulties, was maturing and taking root, and at a time that the courts were playing a growing role in securing the rule of law there. The coup amounts to a complete rejection of all international laws and standards to which Thailand has in recent years, to one degree or another, sought to adhere.

The Asian Human Rights Commission makes the following calls:

1. The Royal Thai Army must immediately renounce power and allow for a return to a caretaker civilian government by the most effective and expedient means possible.

2. The Supreme Court of Thailand should, in the absence of the Constitution Court, declare the coup unconstitutional and order the immediate restoration of the constitution. ...
Tuesday's coup is the first in the country in 15 years, though there have been 17 coups in Thailand [JURIST news archive] since an absolute monarchy was abolished in 1932. New regimes have frequently drafted a new constitution after taking power.

Thaksin has been under intense pressure to resign for several months and last week said that he "may take a break" from politics [Xinhua report; JURIST report]. His Thai Rak Thai party [party website] called parliamentary elections in April, but the results were later annulled [JURIST report] by the nation's highest courts. Several members of the Election Commission of Thailand have been convicted [JURIST report] for violating election laws in connection with arrangements for the April elections and the Thai Rak Thai party has been accused of election fraud [JURIST report], though Thaksin has denied those allegations [JURIST report]. AP has more.

 

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