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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Thai PM calls state of emergency

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Tanks surrounded Thailand's Government House on Tuesday and Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra declared a state of emergency in Bangkok amid signs of the first attempted coup in the southeast Asian nation in 15 years.

"I declare Bangkok under a severe state of emergency," Thaksin said in a voice broadcast on Thai television.

Thaksin, in New York at a United Nations summit, ordered troops not to "move illegally", and told armed forces chiefs to report to acting Prime Minister Chidchai Vanasatidya.

At least 20 soldiers entered the Government House building, according to reporters inside.

Army television broadcast images of the royal family and songs associated in the past with military coups.

Government officials said Thaksin, in the middle of a political crisis fomented by a street campaign against him, planned to return from New York early on Thursday, a day earlier than originally scheduled.

Even though Thailand's last military coup was 15 years ago, speculation about military intervention has been rife, with motorists calling traffic radio stations last week after tanks were spotted rolling down streets of the capital.

That proved to be a false alarm, with the army saying it was merely soldiers returning from exercises.

A general election scheduled for October was postponed last week, probably until November.
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