09/27/2006, 00.00
THAILAND
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Calm only apparent in the generals' Thailand

The name of the new prime minister should be announced on Sunday. He will likely be a retired general and so considered a civilian by the country's new rulers. Thai analysts warn that if restrictions on civil rights get too tight, a hitherto passive population might react.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – The military junta that took power in Thailand on September 19 does not seem ready to leave the political scene any time soon even after a new civilian prime minister is appointed next Sunday. AsiaNews analysts in Thailand confirm that the military are slowly tightening the screws and that the country is heading for a military government that should last at least a year. Under the circumstances the king himself will have to support the new government.

This trend seems even more likely for it is doubtful the military will respect their early commitments. Yesterday in fact, coup leader General Sonthi Boonyaratglin announced that the junta is going to turn itself into a "National Security Council" that will work alongside the new prime minister who will replace the ousted Thaksin Shinawatra, now currently in London.

General Sonthi said that the military will act in the government as advisors. They will not control the new cabinet but will put their experience at its disposal.

Another general involved in the coup, Winai Phattiyakul, referred to the September 19 takeover as a "political change rather than a coup."

"We just tried to do the best for our country," he added. "Sometimes it is not easy for people from outside of the country to understand the real thinking or the behaviour".

These latest remarks were made in response to the mounting international pressure on the junta to restore democracy and respect fundamental rights.

After they took over, the military banned all gathering of five people or more, dissolved parliament, and dismissed the existing cabinet and top judges. They now can exercise all legislative powers and have imposed strict media controls.

The United Nations Commission for Human Rights, the Asian Human Rights Commission in Hong Kong and the United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have all expressed concern for this turn of events. Mr Rice said that Thailand needs "to get a civilian government and they need to get to elections and get back on a democratic path very, very quickly."

This might take some time though since the military pledged elections for October 2007.

Fears that the country might get a military government have increased after the Thai press started reporting that General Surayud Chulanont, a former army chief, might become the nest prime minister.  Although a retired army general, he would be considered a civilian.

After its takeover, the military junta said it would write a temporary constitution and name a civilian to the post of prime minister within two weeks of the coup. The first pledge has been fulfilled according to an army spokesperson. The future Charter is ready and consists of 39 articles. General Sonthi is scheduled to submit the document to King Bhuimibol Adhunyadej on Saturday for approval. The following day the name of the new prime minister should be announced.

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