The military took power in Thailand on Wednesday (6 October) within hours of a fierce gun battle between police and left-wing students at Bangkok's Thammasat University.
The military took power in Thailand on Wednesday (6 October) within hours of a fierce gun battle between police and left-wing students at Bangkok's Thammasat University. Martial law was declared by a group named the Administration Reform Committee under the leadership of a former armed forces chief, Admiral Sa-Ngad Chaloryoo.
SYNOPSIS: Firing broke out on the University campus where several thousand left-wing demonstrators were staging a sit-in protest against the presence in the country of former military ruler Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn, who was deposed following student riots in 1973. Heavily-armed police moved in and a six hour gun battle followed. The police were followed into the university grounds by thousands of right-wing students.
The Thai police say they moved into the University only after the left-wing students started shooting. Most of those killed in the battle were young left-wingers. The police were armed with automatic weapons and recoilless ???ifles.
At the end of the fighting, more that thirty were reported dead with hundreds of others wounded. The students had been demanding the deportation of Marshal thanom who had been returned to Thailand last month. He had entered a monastery as a monk and said there was nothing political about his return.
The police forces included members of the elite Border Patrol. They blasted their way into the centre of the University accompanied by right-wing students. The right-wingers hanged several of the left-wingers, some of the bodies were then burned. Immediately after the campus fighting, troops took up positions at strategic points throughout Bangkok. Hours later, the military removed the civilian government led by Prime Minister Seni Pramoj.
The new leaders said the military had assumed power to prevent the country being taken over by Communists. The constitution was suspended, political meetings were banned and press censorship was imposed immediately.
More than a thousand students were arrested at the Thammasat campus. The demonstration, gun battle and military takeover were the climax of a wave of protests against Marshal Thanom. The civilian government had asked him to leave the country and protest groups were sceptical of his statements that he would not try to stage a political comeback. It was the students who forced the installation of a civilian government three years ago and again it was students who found themselves at the centre of Thailand's return to military rule.