Wed, Oct 11, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Thai PM wants martial law lifted as soon as possible

AP , BANGKOK

Thailand's interim prime minister said yesterday that his government will lift martial law "as soon as we can," adding that repairing the country's image was a priority after last month's coup.

"We will lift martial law as soon as we can and when the situation is suitable," Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said. "I stress it will not be long."

Surayud made the comments to reporters during a break from his first Cabinet meeting, a day after the team was sworn.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej urged the Cabinet on Monday to work with honesty as the country tries to move beyond a political crisis that led to the overthrow of Thaksin Shinawatra, and to help restore Thailand's reputation.

During the Cabinet meeting, ministers agreed to consult the Council for National Security, as the coup leaders call themselves, about lifting martial law, Surayud said.

"We value the freedom of people and civil liberties," he said.

Western nations and human rights groups denounced the coup as a setback to democracy and have urged the government to quickly lift restrictions imposed by the military.

The king acknowledged the criticism for the first time as he swore in the Cabinet on Monday.

"Many people are saying bad things about Thai people," the king said. "Foreigners say that Thailand is not good. So we have to correct that. If we don't correct it, the reputation of our country will be bad."

The king also noted that many Thais were suffering from flooding. At least 39 people have died from flood-related causes since August.

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