Retired general picked as new Thai PM: state radio

Thailand’s junta has chosen General Surayud Chulanont, a former head of the military, to succeed overthrown prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the website of state-run Radio Thailand reported on Friday.
However, other junta officials cautioned that a new interim premier would only be announced at the weekend, while one military source said Surayud had turned down the job offer.
The radio website quoted Thailand’s auditor general, Jaruvan Maintaka, as telling reporters that Surayud, 63, was the generals’ choice.
“It is quite certain,” she said.
“General Surayud is the most suitable for the job, given his qualification and his seniority,” she said, according to Radio Thailand, which is run by the government’s public relations department.
But one military source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Surayud “has declined to take the job.”
Asked who would be the next premier, he replied “I don’t know.”
The generals are expected Sunday to formally announce a new prime minister after ousting Thaksin in a bloodless coup on September 19.
Thailand’s media also Friday widely tipped Surayud, who is a senior royal advisor.
“Conclusion: Surayud, New Prime Minister,” read the headline of Thailand’s top-selling daily, Thairath.
The English-language daily Nation also said Surayud was “the most suitable choice in the current situation,” while the Bangkok Post said the military had asked Surayud to serve as interim prime minister.
A source close to coup leader General Sonthi Boonyaratglin told the Bangkok Post that Sonthi had asked Surayud “if he was ready to take the post if nominated.”
Junta spokesman Palangoon Klaharn would not confirm or deny the reports.
“It’s just news. The name of a new prime minister should be announced after the endorsement of the constitution, which has not happened yet,” he said.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2006