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Thai Coup Leaders Name Retired General as PM


The leaders of last month's coup in Thailand have sworn in retired army commander General Surayud Chulanont as the new prime minister, after the king approved the appointment. The Thai king has also endorsed an interim constitution that gives the military considerable powers.

General Surayud Chulanont, who is 63, was proclaimed prime minister by royal decree at a ceremony Sunday in Bangkok.

Mr. Surayud, spoke briefly to reporters after his swearing in. He says it is duty to fulfill the king's command to become prime minister.

"At this time I receive the mandate from His Majesty the King so I have to take the responsibility," Mr. Surayud says.

Mr. Surayund also said he would work for unity in the country and that he would name his cabinet within the week.

The leader of Thailand's Democrat Party, Abhisit Vejjajiva says a priority for the new prime minister should be to lift restrictions on political parties and the media imposed after the coup.

"I want to see (the new prime minister) being determined to lift the restrictions on rights and freedoms so that we get back to a situation where normal political activity and various points of view can be reflected in our society," Abhisit says.

The Thai military staged a bloodless coup against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, on September 19.

The coup followed months of political turmoil fueled by allegations of abuse of power and corruption against Mr. Thaksin.

Mr. Thaksin was out of the country at the time of the coup. He is currently in London.

Earlier, the coup leaders announced that Thailand's King Bhumipol Adulyadej had also endorsed their interim constitution. The document provides for a 35-member cabinet, a national assembly, and a constitutional drafting assembly.

But the coup leaders, now known as the Council for National Security, retain considerable powers under the temporary charter, including the right to appoint and dismiss the prime minister and the cabinet members.

The military promised to hand over to a civilian administration within two weeks of taking power.

The interim constitution will remain in place until a permanent constitution is drafted. The military say this should be completed in time for elections to be held in late 2007.

General Sondhi Boonyaratglin said the military council will not "interfere in or influence the government" and the new prime minister will have a "free hand to run the administration of the country".

Tanks that that had been stationed outside government offices in Bangkok since the coup returned to barracks. The coup leaders also released four key members of Mr. Thaksin's government, detained shortly after the military takeover.

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