BANGKOK, Thailand – Thailand’s new military ruler, winning crucial royal backing for his bloodless coup, announced Wednesday that he would not call elections for another year. The U.S. and other Western nations expressed disapproval and urged a swift restoration of democracy.
Army commander Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin, appearing relaxed and confident in his military uniform at his first news conference since seizing power Tuesday night, said he would serve as de facto prime minister for two weeks until the junta-which calls itself the Council of Administrative Reform-chooses a civilian to replace him and drafts an interim constitution.
Sondhi sealed the success of his coup by receiving royal endorsement as leader of the new junta, while ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who watched events unfold from abroad, pondered his future and the threat of possible prosecution at home.
Receiving the imprimatur of revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej legitimizes the takeover and should effectively quash any efforts at resistance by Thaksin’s partisans. Thaksin’s ouster followed a series of missteps that prompted many to accuse the prime minister of challenging the king’s authority-an unpardonable act in this traditional Southeast Asian nation that is a popular vacation destination for Westerners.
Since the beginning of the year, many Thai have held street demonstrations demanding Thaksin step down for alleged corruption and abuse of power. Thailand has had no working legislature and only a caretaker government since February, when Thaksin dissolved parliament to hold new elections in an effort to reaffirm his mandate.
WASHINGTON – The House voted Wednesday to require Americans to show proof of citizenship in order to vote, and the Senate moved to build a 700-mile fence along the Mexican border as Republicans sharpened attacks on illegal immigration before the midterm elections.
The 228-196 House vote on a new photo ID plan and the Senate’s consideration of the fence were both part of a get-tough policy on illegal immigrants that Republicans have embraced after Congress’ failure to agree on broader legislation that would set a path for undocumented workers to attain citizenship.
House GOP leaders have insisted that tighter borders and tougher laws must precede more comprehensive immigration changes. The House passed the fence bill last week and plans to vote Thursday on other enforcement measures: to increase penalties for people building tunnels under the border, make it easier to detain and deport immigrant gang members and criminals, and clarify the ability of state and local authorities to detain illegal immigrants.
Republican sponsors of the voter identification bill said it was a commonsense way to stop fraud at the polls.
People need photo IDs to board planes, buy alcohol or cash checks, said Rep. Vernon Ehlers, R-Mich., chairman of the House Administration Committee. “This is not a new concept.”
The ID bill would require everyone to present a photo ID before voting in federal elections by 2008. By 2010, voters would have to have photo IDs that certified they were citizens. In response to criticism that this would be a burden for the poor, the bill stipulates that states must provide the identification cards free of charge to those who cannot afford them.
STATE & LOCAL
LYNCHBURG — More than 200 Randolph-Macon Woman’s College students ended their weeklong boycott of classes to protest the decision to allow men to the 115-year-old women’s college.
Amid protests, trustees voted Sept. 9 to admit men in the fall of 2007. Students ended their boycott over the weekend after meeting with the college’s interim president, Ginger Worden, and other school administrators.
About 250 students stayed out of class for a week and refused to eat in the dining hall, she said.
The school’s enrollment is 712.
The students have the support of some alumnae, who are raising the prospect of legal action.
“We don’t want to litigate, but we don’t see any other choice at the moment,” said Ellen Reid Smith, an alumna.
Administrators said the decision to admit men is intended to achieve more financial stability.
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