Mon, Nov 27, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Surayud's popularity rising as lawyer says Thaksin quits

AGENCIES , BANGKOK

The popularity of Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont has increased nearly two months after military leaders picked him to lead an interim government after the bloodless Sept. 19 coup, an independent poll said yesterday.

Public approval of Surayud rose to 70.5 percent in the latest ABAC poll, up from 55.2 percent earlier this month and 60.9 percent early last month, shortly after he took the job.

Surayud, 63, was a retired army chief and advisor to King Bhumibol Adulyadej when he was asked by coup leaders to replace ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Surayud has said his one-year agenda is to fight corruption, improve governance, overhaul the justice system and accelerate political reforms.

The poll, based on a survey of 4,195 people in 18 Thai provinces last week, showed 71.3 percent believed in Surayud's sincerity in working for national interests without harboring personal political ambitions.

According to the same poll, Thaksin's national popularity fell to 15.8 percent from 34.5 percent in February this year and 56.2 percent in the middle of last year.

It said even in Thaksin's stronghold in rural north eastern Thailand, he commanded only 30.1 percent public support compared with 57.2 percent for Surayud.

Meanwhile, Thaksin's legal adviser announced yesterday that the former prime minister will leave politics for good and that he will not contest elections promised for next year by the ruling junta.

"He will quit politics for good because his family wants him to quit, and I understand that he will not run for next elections," Noppadol Pattama told reporters.

Following the September coup which ousted him, Thaksin resigned as leader of his Thai Rak Thai political party.

He was in New York during the bloodless putsch and spent a month living in London, where he has a home. He has since travelled around Asia, circling Thailand with visits to Beijing, Hong Kong and Bali.

Noppadol said the deposed prime minister had no plans to return to Thailand "anytime soon" and would stay in Beijing "for a while".

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