Thailand's military rulers have completed a draft interim constitution that they will submit for royal endorsement and plan to name a new prime minister as soon as possible, coup leader Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin said on Tuesday. Sondhi told reporters that the ruling military council was narrowing down its candidates for a civilian prime minister to replace them but had not yet made a final decision. He did not rule out appointing an ex-military official as the incoming prime minister.
"When you say 'civilian prime minister,' you will see that soldiers after they retire can be called civilians," Sondhi said in a response to a question during a nationally televised press conference.
Sondhi led a coup that ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Sept. 19 and said at the time that a civilian leader would be installed within two weeks _ or by Oct. 4.
Since taking power, the military council has established several anti-corruption panels to investigate alleged wrongdoing of the Thaksin government.
The military has cited corruption in the former Thaksin government as one of the reasons for its Sept. 19 coup, staged while Thaksin was in New York for the annual U.N. General Assembly meetings.
The military council has said it wants a constitution with less "loopholes" to hold future leaders more accountable. Sondhi said Tuesday that a draft interim consitution has been written and would be submitted for endorsement by Thailand's king by Sunday. The top graft fighting panel said Monday it might freeze the assets of Thaksin and his top aides if evidence is found they tried to transfer their wealth abroad. Thaksin is currently in London. Sondhi said he did not expect Thaksin to return home anytime soon.
"I think he is aware of the situation," Sondhi said. "I do not think he will return in the near future."
The former prime minister's family was one of the wealthiest in Southeast Asia even before he came into office in 2001. The military council promised to hand power to an interim civilian regime within two weeks and hold elections by October next year after a new constitution is enacted to replace the one scrapped when it ousted Thaksin.