Thai PM Surayud vague on timing of general elections


Mon, Feb 26, 2007 - Page 1

Thailand's military-installed prime minister reiterated his plan to leave politics after elections this year, but raised doubts yesterday over whether the government would carry out polls in October as planned.

"I will take a rest," Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said in an interview with Malaysia's national news agency, Bernama, published yesterday. "For me, I am not going to get involved in politics."

A Thai government spokesman confirmed the accuracy of the interview.

Surayud was appointed prime minister in October last year by the military government following a bloodless coup that overthrew the democratically elected Thaksin Shinawatra, whom the military accused of corruption and abuse of power, charges that Thaksin has denied.

The government earlier said a new constitution would be drawn up by September, and that it would resign after general elections in October.

In the interview with Bernama in Bangkok that took place late on Friday, Surayud voiced confidence that elections would be held, but added that he could not be certain if it would be by October.

"I cannot say at the moment," Surayud was quoted as saying. "It still depends a lot on the drafting committee, like when it is able to provide the first draft for a referendum [on a new constitution] ... After the referendum, we will proceed with the general elections."

Thai government spokesman Yongyuth Maiyalarb yesterday confirmed the contents of the Bernama interview but said that Surayud's comments did not rule out an October election.

He said that the constitutional drafting committee was planning to finish its work by September, which could pave the way for polls a month later.

In the interview, Surayud also defended his government's economic policies.