Thai coup chiefs pick King’s aide as leader

The Times September 30, 2006

Thai coup chiefs pick King’s aide as leader

THE
Thai junta will soon name a retired army general and senior courtier to
King Bhumibol Adulyadej as Prime Minister of its caretaker
administration, according to reports in Bangkok.

As early as this weekend King Bhumibol is expected to confirm the
appointment of Surayud Chulanont, a 63-year old member of the Privy
Council.

NI_MPU(‘middle’);

The
move will confirm the growing impression that in spite of its public
commitment to restore democratic civilian rule as soon as possible, the
junta intends to control government for the time being.

A spokesman confirmed yesterday that the Council for
Democratic Reform, as the coup leaders called themselves, would retain
the right to dismiss the appointee, although other than in matters of
security it would not interfere in the day-to-day decisions of
government.

“The power is there in reserve,” Krit GarnjanaGoonchorn, of
the Foreign Ministry, said. “I don’t think they foresee a situation to
resort to it.”

The appointment of General Surayud will do little to quell the
objections of foreign governments, which have denounced the overthrow
11 days ago of Thaksin Shinawatra, the democratically elected Prime
Minister, while he was in New York attending the United Nations General
Assembly.

On Thursday America suspended $24 million (£13 million) of military aid in protest at the coup.

“The United States continues to urge a rapid return to
democratic rule and early elections in Thailand,” Sean McCormack, the
State Department spokesman, said. “We look forward to being able to
reinstate these programmes after a democratically elected government
takes office.”

General Winai Phattiyakul, a member of the ruling council,
insisted that the coup was justified by the potential for violence
between supporters of Mr Thaksin and his many vehement opponents.

“If you are riding a train, you see that it may derail or it
may collide with the other train and will cause damage, or will cause
loss of life of innocents, I think it makes sense that you either stop
or make a turn,” he said. “Either make a sharp turn or make a U-turn in
order to avoid the tragedy to happen.”

The junta reshuffled senior military officers yesterday,
promoting seven of its own, including General Winai, and marginalising
those regarded as close to Mr Thaksin, who remains in exile in London.

General Surayud retired to become a Buddhist monk in 2003
after a 38-year career in which he saw action against communist
insurgents and along Thailand’s unstable border with Cambodia. After
three months in a monastery he joined the Privy Council, the inner
circle of royal advisers.

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