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BANGKOK, Thailand (CNN) -- The chiefs of Thailand's army, navy and air force met with King Bhumibol Adulyadej to declare they were taking over the country, according to a televised statement early Wednesday. |
The coup is being led by Thai army chief Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, who announced that the military and opposition Party of Democratic Reform were taking over while Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was in New York for a U.N. meeting.
Sonthi said Wednesday he would meet in the morning with government officials and leaders of other institutions, such as universities
Thaksin canceled a scheduled Tuesday evening speech to the U.N. General Assembly, a U.N. official said.
He insisted, however, that his government was still in control of the nation.
Tanks and troops patrolled Bangkok early Wednesday after the army said the military was taking control. (Watch tanks roll through the streets of Bangkok -- 3:53)
Police were closing stores and directing traffic off Bangkok streets, residents told CNN via e-mail, but no violence was reported.
The coup plotters declared martial law and suspended the constitution of the Southeast Asian nation. They also declared Wednesday a holiday, with schools, banks and the country's stock market closed.
"The armed forces commander and the national police commander have successfully taken over Bangkok and the surrounding area in order to maintain peace and order. There has been no struggle," the coup announcement said, according to The Associated Press. "We ask for the cooperation of the public and ask your pardon for the inconvenience."
Sonthi, who is known to be close to Thailand's revered constitutional monarch, will serve as acting prime minister, army spokesman Col. Akarat Chitroj said, according to The AP. Sonthi is a Muslim in this Buddhist-dominated nation, AP reported.
Foreign news networks, including CNN, from which Thailand residents were able to monitor the beginning of the coup, were later removed from the country's cable systems.
Only one local station was broadcasting and it was showing pictures of the country's king, according to an e-mail CNN received from Nio Paul, who identified himself as an American living in Thailand.
On a television station remaining under his government's control Tuesday, Thaksin declared a state of emergency from New York.
Troops on the streets of the Thai capital had yellow ribbons on their weapons, a sign of loyalty to the nation's king, to whom the coup plotters proclaimed their loyalty.
Former Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai told AP that Thaksin had forced the military to act.
"As politicians, we do not support any kind of coup, but during the past five years, the government of Thaksin created several conditions that forced the military to stage the coup. Thaksin has caused the crisis in the country," he told The AP.
At least four tanks and a number of armored vehicles were stationed around the royal palace in Bangkok, CNN's Dan Rivers reported.
Soldiers apparently were setting up roadblocks, and what appeared to be members of the royal guard surrounded the palace.
It was unclear if the soldiers were loyal to the government or to those attempting to seize power.
Two tanks were parked outside the government headquarters, which houses Thaksin's office.
About a dozen soldiers patrolled around the Erawan Hotel in the city's business district, AP reported.
There have been 17 coups in Thailand since World War II, and rumors of an 18th have been circulating around Bangkok in recent weeks as Thaksin battled considerable pressure to step down. This is the first coup since 1992, AP reported.
Thaksin decided Monday night to reschedule his speech to the U.N. General Assembly for Tuesday night and return to Bangkok afterward, according to U.N. officials. He originally had been scheduled to address the assembly on Wednesday.
Though he canceled the Tuesday speech, it was not clear when Thaksin would return to Thailand.
Elections in Thailand are scheduled for November after the country's constitutional court ruled that a vote in April was unconstitutional.
Thaksin had called for the April elections, three years early, after opponents accused the billionaire leader of abusing the country's system of checks and balances and bending government policy to benefit his family's business.
Some Thais gathered outside Government House in Bangkok to get pictures of themselves with the tanks and troops, AP reported.
The coup caused little stir in Bangkok's popular tourist districts, where foreigners packed beer bars and cabarets just a few miles from where the tanks were posted, AP reported.
CNN's Richard Roth, Dan Rivers and Ellen Rose contributed to this report
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