Gen Surayud likely to be Thailand's interim PM

Coup leaders have chosen Gen Surayud Chulanont, a former army commander, to lead the country until promised elections next year.

india Updated: Sep 30, 2006 18:52 IST

Thailand's coup leaders have chosen a former army commander and close adviser to the country's powerful monarch to lead the country until promised elections next year, the auditor general was quoted as saying.

A formal announcement was expected in coming days but the ruling military council has hinted that its choice for the interim position was Gen Surayud Chulanont, a highly regarded retired officer.

Auditor General Jaruvan Maintaka revealed the choice in comments to reporters late on Thursday that were carried on an official government website Friday.

"Yes, definitely, Gen Surayud is the prime minister. He is the suitable person," Jaruvan was quoted as saying by the Public Relations Department.

However, she later denied making those comments. When telephoned about the details on Friday, she told the agency: "I didn't say so."

It was unclear why she appeared to backtrack, but she may have realised she had pre-empted an official announcement.

All Friday morning Bangkok newspapers carried headlines that Surayud would probably head the new government.

His appointment was expected to be announced this weekend or Monday, after it receives approval from King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The 62-year-old Surayud was selected by the country's ruling military council, which seized power from Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in a bloodless coup September 19 while the premier was abroad.

The council vowed to name a civilian prime minister within two weeks.

Patchara Kampitak, president of the Reporters Association of Thailand, said that reporters from several Thai media outlets visited coup leader Gen Sondhi Boonyaratkalin on Friday and received assurances "about freedom of the media."

Kampitak quoted Sondhi as saying the interim premier would not be a "surprise to the media."

"His face is familiar to you (reporters) and he is the man to 'wai' (greet with respect) without any qualms," Kampitak quoted Sondhi as saying.

Akara Thiroj, a spokesman for the council, said an interim constitution has already been completed and sent to the Royal Palace.

He hoped the Constitution could be announced Saturday or Sunday and followed by the formal announcement of the prime minister on the weekend or Monday.

Surayud's appointment was expected to be widely praised in Thailand.

First Published: Sep 29, 2006 11:40 IST