Foreign leaders express concern, Thaksin cancels UN address

BANGKOK (Agencies, Nation): Foreign leaders reacted with concern over the military coup against caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan saying “this is not a practice to be encouraged”.

Speaking to CNN television on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting, Annan said: “We as an organization [UN] have always supported governmental changes through democratic means, through the ballot box. As the African Union, for example, has indicated they do not support those who come to power through the barrel of a gun.”

Annan urged Thai people to “remain calm”. He told CNN: “Over the past decade or so they have established a solid democracy and institutions under the leadership of the king. And I’m sure they will be able to restore that institution and go back to a democratic system as soon as possible.”

Thaksin is in New York for the General Assembly but canceled his plans to give a speech to the meeting after the military staged a coup.

Thaksin, who was due to speak today, initially switched places with Montenegro on the speaker’s list to allow him to speak yesterday evening due to the coup.

But, just three hours before he was expected to address the 192-nation world body, UN deputy spokeswoman Marie Okabe announced that “Thailand is no longer on the General Assembly speaker’s list this evening.” She gave no explanation for the cancellation.

Meanwhile, the United States said it was monitoring the situation with concern and was uneasy about the military takeover in Thailand.

The US State Department said in a statement issued yesterday said it hoped the political differences in Thailand could be resolved through democratic principles. There had been no indications of violence, but “we are monitoring the situation with concern”.

The department described the situation as “still unfolding”.

“We continue to hope the Thai people will resolve their political differences in accord with democratic principles and the rule of law,” the statement said.

The State Department responded initially with caution but injected an expression of concern several hours later in its second statement of the day.

In New York, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice returned to her hotel from UN headquarters to speak with her staff about the coup. US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton said it was still too early to comment but appealed for the maintenance of the rule of law.

“We have press reports and I think for now the important thing is to look for the sustaining of constitutional processes in Thailand,” Bolton said.

Meanwhile Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen – whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency – said Thailand needed to “revert to democratic order without delay.

“It is highly regrettable that democratic institutions seem to have been taken over by military force,” he said in a statement.

France’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement: “We are following the situation closely.” It urged some 6,000 French citizens resident in Bangkok to “stay indoors”.

Britain is “never happy” to see a military coup in a country, Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said yesterday in a reaction to the over-throw of caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

“We are never happy about military attempts to overthrow a government, if that is what is happening,” Beckett told reporters on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

“But we very much hope there will be peace and the situation will be resolved and that some peaceful way out of the problem will be determined,” she added.

Beckett said, “Details and information are still coming in, as you know, and I’m cautious of commenting on what is clearly an unfolding situation.”

Australia said it was gravely concerned at the “unacceptable” overthrow of the Thai government in a military coup, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said yesterday.

The tough comments from Downer, who is in New York attending the UN General Assembly meeting, came as Canberra issued a travel advisory warning its citizens to reconsider travel to Thailand following the overnight coup.

“We want to see a return to democratic rule [in Thailand],” Downer said in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation from New York. “It’s of grave concern for us that the government has been overthrown in this way.

“There was an expectation in Thailand that there would be an election towards the end of this year and it is of concern to us that the military appear to have simply seized power,” Downer said.

The Netherlands’ main airline, KLM, said it had made no changes to its flights to Bangkok for the moment, as the situation in the Thai capital appeared to be calm.

The British Foreign Office cautioned Britons traveling to Bangkok or already there to monitor all available information and avoid large crowds and protests.

Phuket News
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