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Thai Government Dismisses Rumors of New Coup

Thailand's government is dismissing rumors of a fresh coup plot, after such speculation ran rampant through Bangkok Thursday night. VOA's Suzanne Presto reports from the Thai capital, where people are still on edge four months after a bloodless coup that deposed the elected government, and only several days after bomb attacks that killed three people.

Thailand's government is appealing for calm, saying there is no truth to rumors of a fresh coup plot.

Speculation was swirling in Thailand Friday that the military government, known as the Council of National Security, or CNS, might be reshuffled to present a more assertive face to the public, or that there was a plot to unseat the council itself.

Government spokesman Yongyuth Mayalarp says rumors of a coup were likely sparked Thursday by routine troop movements in the jittery capital.

"The spokesman for the CNS has informed the public that the movement of troops in the metropolis is the normal situation because there have been changing of the troops' rotation, and there may be some movement of the military vehicles in various places," he said.

Yonghuth notes that members of the CNS, who staged the coup that deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra last September, and the man the council installed in Mr. Thaksin's place, Interim Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, have dismissed the rumors.

"The members of the CNS have declared their unity, so there is no possibility of any military coup at all," he said.

spite the government's appeals, people here remain on edge. The country was shaken on New Year's Eve when a series of bomb blasts rocked Bangkok, killing three people and injuring more than 40.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a professor of political science at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, says the attacks, combined with political instability, have created a scenario where rumors can run rampant.

"We are going to see more coup rumors in the coming weeks and months, and the rumors will be founded on this volatile political situation," he said. "The military does not have things in control. In fact, things are spiraling out of control."

Thitinan says he does not think the CNS would oust Mr. Surayud, because he has the trust of the king, and he was chosen by the council in the first place.

But Thitinan does not entirely dismiss one theory making the rounds: that the military leaders might choose a new head in place of the coup leader, General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, in order to present a more assertive face to the nation.

"The military has lost legitimacy because it cannot maintain security in view of the bomb blasts we saw on New Year's Eve. So the military may decide that it has to do another coup to regain momentum," he said.

Thitinan says there would be less volatility if the military had been more forceful in its handling of Mr. Thaksin and his associates. While Mr. Thaksin himself is in self-imposed exile, many of his supporters are living freely in Thailand, and Thitinan believes they are provoking instability.