Sunday, October 1, 2006

Surayud Sworn as New Thai PM

General Surayud Chulanont, Thailand’s former army chief, was on Sunday October 1, 2006 formally appointed as interim prime minister of the deeply divided country.

He pledged immediately to put the pursuit of “people’s happiness” over economic growth.

Gen Surayud, 63, who resigned from a post as privy councilor to revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej to take the premiership, said that his administration would be guided by ideals of the “self-sufficiency” economy, advocated by the monarch.

“We won’t concentrate so much on the GDP numbers,” Gen Surayud said. “We would rather look into the indicators of people’s happiness and prosperity.”

He also said he would focus on ending national political strife, and unrest in the Muslim-majority south, where an ethnic Malay separatist insurgency has claimed more than 1,700 lives. “Both problems have their roots in injustice in the society,” he said.

Gen Surayud who is widely admired by Thais for his personal integrity and his efforts to depoliticize the army during his four year tenure as its chief , insisted he never had any ambition to rule, but was simply answering the call of duty after a military coup ousted Thaksin Shinawatra, the billionaire prime minister.

The general was appointed to lead the government, despite serious concerns by the coup-makers that his proximity to the king would reinforce popular perceptions of a palace role in the events that drove Mr Thaksin from power.He was sworn in by coup leader General Sonthi Boonyaratglin. The military also unveiled a short-term constitution under which they will maintain substantial powers until elections promised for October 2007. The swearing-in ceremony for Gen Surayud came hours after the announcement the former army commander would be the new interim leader. "The king has appointed him to administer the country from now on," Gen Sonthi said during the ceremony at Government House.

Surayud Chulanont, is an army veteran, and one of the few senior Thai figures who is respected by military and civilian leaders alike.

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