Thaksin, in a statement from London two days after he was removed in a bloodless coup, urged all parties to work for national reconciliation "for the sake of our King and country".

 

The statement issued on Thursday said Thaksin "hopes the new regime will quickly arrange a new general election and continue to uphold the principles of democracy for the future of all Thai".

 

It gave no indication that the billionaire telecoms tycoon, who won two landslide elections before facing an anti-corruption street campaign a year ago, was planning to return to Bangkok, despite an invitation to do so from coup leaders.

 

He would have to face charges already filed, including election fraud, and others may be looming.

 

The administration said it expected to complete a probe this month into whether Thaksin's family legitimately avoided tax on their $1.9 billion sale of the company he founded and into allegations of corruption in government spending under his rule.

 

Abhisit Vejjajiva, the Democrat Party leader, called for elections in six months after army chief Sonthi Boonyaratglin promised a civilian prime minister in two weeks, followed by a military withdrawal, political reform in a year and then new elections.

 

"We are encouraged that they don't want to hold onto power and that their job is to put the country back on the democratic path," he told Reuters.

 

"But they have to prove it and prove it as soon as possible."

 

Aides sacked, ministers detained

 

The military says that it has been
forced  into a coup

The military, on Thursday, sacked four top security aides who were deemed close to Thaksin. Earlier in the day, two former cabinet ministers were detained at army headquarters where Thaksin's deputy prime minister and chief of staff have been held since Tuesday.

 

The coup leaders also tightened restrictions on existing political parties, but gave no sense of how long they would last, and banned the formation of new parties.

 

"The Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM) has ordered political parties to halt all meetings and political activities," it said.

 

"We respect the council's need for stability and we will abide by it," said Korn Chatikavanij, a senior member of the Democrat Party.

 

The military has also banned political gatherings of more than five people as well as distribution of information critical of the coup on Web sites or on television.

 

 "No other way"

 

"Thailand is without a parliament or a constitution. Its executive is under control of the army. Its judiciary is hobbled. Its media is threatened. It is in a very dangerous moment"

Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission in a statement

The military said it had been forced into a coup because there was no other way out of a political crisis that pitted Thaksin against the old guard and street campaigners who said he had undermined democratic institutions and become a dictator.

 

Human rights groups denounced the coup, which has drawn wide condemnation abroad. Yet, it was generally welcomed at home, even by Thaksin supporters, as the right way to prevent strife in a country which prides itself on social harmony.

 

"Thailand is without a parliament or a constitution. Its executive is under control of the army. Its judiciary is hobbled. Its media is threatened. It is in a very dangerous moment," the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission said.

 

But the country was calm and the stock market ended the day down just 1.42 per cent, a far less precipitous drop than feared.

 

Traders said a royal proclamation legitimising the military government went a long way to reassuring investors after Thailand's first coup in 15 years, but its 18th since it became a constitutional monarchy in 1932.

 

Thaksin, who was at the UN General Assembly in New York at the time of the coup, appeared to accept his fate.

 

"He totally accepted. He did not complain. He looked calm," Surakiart Sathirathai, former deputy prime minister, who was with him, told reporters in Bangkok.

 

Thaksin has support

 

The politically wise are not
counting out Thaksin yet

No matter what Thaksin said, the politically wise were not counting out Thailand's longest-serving elected prime minister.

 

"This is not a man who likes to lose," Thitinan Pongsudhirak of Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University told reporters. "Thaksin's support runs deep.

 

"If there's an election supervised by the UN, Thaksin and Thai Rak Thai would win, and that's a problem for Thailand," he said, referring to Thaksin's party whose name translates as Thais Love Thais.

 

Dao Khempanya, a 65-year-old farmer in the paddy fields and coconut groves of Nonthaburi, 50km (30 miles) west of Bangkok, drove the point home.

 

He did not oppose the coup, but his devotion to Thaksin was undiminished.

 

"Please come back Mr. Thaksin and we'll re-elect you," he said with a toothy grin.

 

The nearly year-long political crisis took its toll on the economy, with investment and infrastructure spending put on hold.

 

Pridiyathorn Devakula, Bank of Thailand governor, told reporters that the economy would improve after the coup and that the stock market performance reflected investor confidence.

 

But the outlook was mixed. Moody's Investor Service reaffirmed Thailand's ratings and stable outlook on Thursday. Morgan Stanley cut its annual economic growth forecast for the second half of the year to 2.4 per cent from 3.5 per cent.