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Thai Coup Chief Denies Deciding to Enter Politics


The general who led Thailand's military coup last year says he still has not decided whether to run for a parliamentary seat in a general election that has been promised for later this year. From Bangkok, Roger Wilkison reports that General Sonthi Boonyaratglin's alleged political ambitions are creating a stir in Thailand.

The Bangkok Post, one of the Thai capital's two English-language newspapers, reported Wednesday that General Sonthi has made the decision to enter politics and that two parties now being organized are interested in fielding him as a candidate for Parliament.

But General Sonthi says he has made no such decision and has not even thought about his future after he reaches the date at which he faces mandatory retirement from the army in September.

He says he still has two months left before he is due to retire and, so, has plenty of time to decide whether or not he will enter politics.

The Bangkok Post quotes a source close to the coup leader as saying one motive for seeking a parliamentary seat is protection for himself and other senior officers. They deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra last September and could face political revenge from Mr. Thaksin's supporters.

The newspaper quotes its source as saying General Sonthi believes that the coup's goals have not yet been achieved. The military has said it overthrew the twice-elected Mr. Thaksin to free Thailand from corruption and subversion of democracy. The general is also said to fear that existing political parties are too weak to stand up to pro-Thaksin elements.

Opponents and even some allies of the military government say that any run for office by General Sonthi would be inappropriate. They say it would create the impression that he wants to cling to power after retiring from the army. They also recall that, when he seized power, General Sonthi assured Thais that the military would return to the barracks as soon as a new election was held.

But the source quoted by the Bangkok Post says General Sonthi's possible candidacy is not about clinging to power but about keeping Mr. Thaksin away from Thailand.

The Post reports that General Sonthi wants to represent Lopburi province, which is home to several army bases, and that he is seeking financial support from businessmen to fund his election campaign.

The military-appointed government says elections should be held in November or December. But, first, it plans to submit a draft constitution to a referendum on August 19.