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Interim Thai prime minister named

BANGKOK, Thailand – Surayud Chulanont, a former army commander and a close adviser to Thailand’s powerful monarch, has been chosen as the country’s interim prime minister, the auditor general said Thursday night.

Surayud, a highly regarded 62-year-old retired officer, was selected by the country’s ruling military council which seized power from Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra Sept. 19 and vowed to name a civilian prime minister within two weeks.

The appointment is expected to be officially announced this weekend or Monday after it receives approval from King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Akara Thiroj, a spokesman for the council, said an interim constitution has already been finalized and sent to the Royal Palace. He hoped the constitution could be unveiled Saturday or Sunday and followed by the formal announcement of the prime minister on the weekend or Monday.

Surayud’s appointment is expected to be widely praised in Thailand. Korn Chatikavanij, deputy general secretary of the Democrat Party, said earlier that Surayud is an “appropriate” choice. The Democrat Party was the leading opposition to Thaksin’s government.

The military ousted elected Prime Minister Thaksin in a bloodless coup while Thaksin was visiting New York. He is now in London, and has not indicated if or when he may try to return to Thailand.

The United States, which has decried the coup as a setback to democracy, on Thursday suspended $24 million in assistance to Thailand.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said U.S. financing of U.S. military sales to Thailand is being cut off along with training for Thai military personnel.

“The United States continues to urge a rapid return to democratic rule and early elections in Thailand,” he said.


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