Sun, Sep 24, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Four candidates for Thai prime minister shortlisted by junta

AFP , BANGKOK

Thailand's ruling junta drew up a four-man shortlist yesterday, including former WTO head Supachai Panitchpakdi, to replace the deposed prime minister and steer the nation back to democracy, a military source said.

Thailand's king will be asked on Wednesday to confirm one of the four men as leader to plot what the military has promised will be a year-long path to elections after the coup against Thaksin Shinawatra.

After meeting for almost three hours yesterday, the generals said they had also drawn up a draft interim constitution for the approval of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

CANDIDATES

Supachai, 60, who headed the WTO until last year and currently chairs the UN Conference on Trade and Development, is the most internationally recognized name on the list.

The others are Bank of Thailand Governor Pridiyathorn Devakula and the presidents of the nation's two top courts, Charnchai Likhitchittha and Akkharathorn Chularat, the military sources said.

"The selection of a new prime minister is an urgent task on the agenda, and a crucial issue for the junta that we cannot speed up," junta spokesman Major General Thaweep Netniyan told reporters after the meeting.

"The junta is confident that people will be satisfied with our choice of new prime minister," he added, declining to name publicly those on the list.

The military has pledged to appoint a new civilian prime minister within two weeks to pave the way for elections they postponed by a year to October next year.

MEDIA THREATENED

Thaweep also said after yesterday's meeting that the new leadership would "retaliate" against foreign media which had insulted the monarchy in reporting the coup.

"At today's meeting, top military leaders asked the foreign ministry to urgently retaliate against foreign reporters whose coverage has been deemed insulting to the monarchy," he said.

Thaweep did not name the media organizations or dispatches deemed offensive and did not specify how the government would retaliate.

Insulting the king in Thailand is a serious criminal offense, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Meanwhile, in the country's insurgency-hit south, four police officers were injured yesterday in the first bombing since the coup, despite hopes of easing tensions there.

Sonthi, the first Muslim to head the Thai army, previously offered peace talks to resolve the bloody conflict that has claimed more than 1,400 lives.

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