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Thai Military Leaders Say They Failed to Achieve Coup Goals

Military leaders who staged a 2006 coup in Thailand say they failed to achieve their goals after sending former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra into exile. VOA's Luis Ramirez reports from Bangkok.

Military leaders say the military government - known officially as the Council for National Security - is dissolved. Wednesday, Thailand installed its first democratically elected cabinet since the 2006 coup.

Air force chief Chalit Pukbhasuk said the council was not able to achieve 100 percent of its goals during the 15 months it was in power. Among those goals was erasing the political influence of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. He was forced out after months of public protests in which opponents accused him of corruption and cronyism.

The military-backed interim government dissolved his Thai Rak Thai party and banned Mr. Thaksin and more than 100 of his allies from politics for five years. Those who were not banned regrouped in the new People Power Party and other parties and won the largest number of parliamentary seats in elections last December.

The return to democracy prompted Washington's decision this week to lift sanctions imposed on after the coup. Speaking in Bangkok, U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Eric John said the United States looks forward to resuming full ties with Thailand, which he said remains a democratic nation at its core - despite the coup.

"I think that what we have seen before the coup and for many decades is that Thais are strong supporters of democracy," he said. "That if you interview, if you meet with any Thai, they are strong supporters of democracy, strong supporters of capitalism. And I think that if you look at the vote, I think Thais - the number of people who voted - I think Thais eagerly embraced a return to democracy."

Many Thais supported the coup in 2006, hoping it would rid the country of widespread corruption and political favoritism. But voters interviewed at the polls in December indicated they had lost patience with the military-backed government, saying it failed to end corruption or fix the stagnant economy.

The new prime minister, Samak Sundaravej, helped win votes for his party by calling for the return and exoneration of Thaksin Shinawatra - who remains popular among the poor thanks to his poverty-alleviation programs. Recently Mr. Samak has insisted he is no puppet of Mr. Thaksin and can govern the country on his own.

Newspapers in Bangkok quote Mr. Samak as saying he will fulfill his campaign promises to reinstate those who were banned from politics - but only at the end of his term.