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Page last updated at 15:22 GMT, Monday, 1 October 2007 16:22 UK

Profile: Thai coup leader

Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin
Gen Sonthi is the first Muslim to be commander-in-chief
The leader of last year's coup in Thailand, Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin, has recently quit as army and security chief, prompting speculation he will soon be in the cabinet.

Analysts are speculating that his ultimate aim could be to stand for prime minister.

In the run-up to last September's coup, the general made his mark with some very public disagreements with the man he overthrew, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Appointed commander-in-chief in 2005, Gen Sonthi is known to be close to the country's King, Bhumibol Adulyadej, and has been seen as an unofficial spokesman for the monarch.

After parliamentary elections in April, which were later annulled because of concerns about their legitimacy, he said that King Bhumibol was "saddened" by the situation.

Gen Sonthi, 59, graduated from Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy in 1969 and was commissioned to the Royal Army Infantry Corps.

A decorated combat veteran, he headed several top Thai army units including the elite Special Warfare Command.

Muslim insurgency

Gen Sonthi was the first member of Thailand's Muslim minority to head the army.

The move was seen as an attempt by the government to curb an Islamist insurgency in the south of the country which has killed more than 1,400 people in the last two and a half years.

His first major spat with the government came when his proposal for talks with the militants was rejected.

And when the political crisis blew up earlier this year, with the opposition Democrat Party boycotting elections amid claims that Mr Thaksin was abusing his power, Gen Sonthi voiced his - and the king's - concerns.

"The country's problem, which originated some time ago and has prevailed until now, has saddened his majesty, which has upset and worried me," he was quoted by local media as saying.

"As a soldier of his majesty, I would like to help him relieve his worry and the army will adhere strictly to whatever advice he gives us."





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