- The Washington Times - Friday, May 30, 2008

THAILAND

Military commander denies coup rumors

BANGKOK - Thailand’s top commander denied reports yesterday that the military may be plotting another coup amid rising political tensions in the southeast Asian nation. Recent street protests against the government have fueled speculation that the army may again intervene in politics after ousting former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in a bloodless 2006 putsch.

Supreme Commander Boonsrang Niumpradit told Reuters news agency that comments he made earlier yesterday had been misinterpreted.

“I simply said anyone plotting a coup would not tell you in advance. From what I can see, there is no one thinking about that. It is not appropriate. I believe there will not be any coup,” he said.

Bangkok’s rumor mill has been churning since Sunday’s protest by about 5,000 opponents of the pro-Thaksin coalition government elected in December last year.

Protests against Mr. Thaksin two years ago had started small but grew to 100,000 strong before the army launched a coup in September 2006.

VIETNAM

Capital city to grow three times

HANOI - Vietnam’s capital will grow to more than three times its current size and almost twice its population of 3.4 million under a plan approved yesterday by the National Assembly.

The government pushed through the plan in the Communist Party-dominated legislature to make Hanoi a city of 6.2 million after earlier public objections from some assembly deputies, historians and media commentators.

The administrative reform plan, to take effect Aug. 1, calls for “expanding the boundary of Hanoi to secure land for developing projects of national importance,” including key urban infrastructure projects.

The one-party government, dominated by the secretive 14-member politburo, has argued that the reform plan will help streamline urban planning in the city that is among the most traffic-choked and overcrowded in Asia.

Under the decision, Hanoi’s city limits will be expanded, increasing the city’s size by 3.6 times to 1,291 square miles.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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