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|Update from Witness worker Pat Houmphan|
Coup – Thailand:
September 20, 2006
Borabu, Thailand — In a country that has experienced 17 coups between 1932 and 1991, the latest ousting of the country’s leader has come as little surprise to Thailand’s 64 million people, say local media.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was ostensibly relieved of his duties by Thailand’s military on Tuesday, Sept. 19, while he was in New York for United Nations meetings. Coup leader General Sonthi Boonyaratglin declared support of Thailand’s revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, according to reports from the BBC.
Mennonite Church Canada Witness worker Pat Houmphan together with his wife, Rad, minister to the Isaan people in rural northeastern Thailand. He responded quickly to concerns from staff administrators in an email received on the morning of Sept. 20:
“Many of you have probably heard or watched the military coup in Thailand near midnight on Tuesday, September 19. Some of you have called and written us regarding this matter. Thank you very much for your concerns and prayers. We want to let you know that we are doing fine and things are calm and life is going on as normal in Borabu and in the Isaan land. Nevertheless, banks, government offices and schools were closed today.
Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, the coup's leaders and the acting Prime Minister declared today (Wednesday, September 20) as a national holiday. The military issued several decrees including the ban on public gatherings of more than five people. However, it's good to know that religious gatherings are still allowed (we have heard this from the channel 5, a station owned by the military).
Please pray for our safety as we continue to live and serve in Thailand. Pray for reconciliation between groups, and that peace and democracy will be restored soon.”
Gordon Janzen, Mission Partnership Facilitator for Asia, said, “At this point it appears that these political developments will not have any direct impact on our ministry. It is, however, important to pray that the country will be able to overcome the political and economic instability that they have experienced since earlier this year.”
According to media reports on CNN.com, General Sonthi Boonyaratglin has pledged to return power to the people and appoint a new prime minister within two weeks. Thaksin, prime minister since 2001 and one of Thailand’s richest citizens, had raised controversy when his family paid no taxes on $1.9 billion (US) they earned by selling stakes in the Singapore’s state investment company.
The results of a quickly organized April election, called by Thaksin to defuse the crisis, was ruled unconstitutional by the national court. Another election had been scheduled for November. Most had expected Thaksin’s party to win, due to strong support from the Thailand’s poorest populations.
Read BBC reports here.
Read CNN reports here.