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Last Updated: Saturday, 23 September 2006, 09:53 GMT 10:53 UK
Thai coup chiefs seek civilian PM
Gen Sonthi prostrates himself before a portrait of the king
Gen Sonthi has said the monarch supports his intervention
The leaders of Thailand's military coup have been discussing the appointment of a new civilian PM.

The coup leaders have promised within two weeks to find a replacement for Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in a bloodless coup on Tuesday.

Thailand's king has given his backing to the coup in a TV ceremony that saw coup leader Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin kneeling before a royal portrait.

Soldiers have been ordered to show a positive face to the public by smiling.

Army radio told the troops they should be friendly and courteous.

Tanks and soldiers have been stationed on the streets of Bangkok since the overthrow.

Fresh elections

Mr Thaksin was at the UN General Assembly in New York when he was toppled in a bloodless coup on Tuesday.

POSSIBLE CANDIDATES FOR PM
Supachai Panitchpakdi, former World Trade Organisation chief
Chatumongol Sonakul, former central bank chief, sacked by Mr Thaksin
Pridiyathorn Devakula, central bank chief
Ackaratorn Chularat, president of Supreme Administrative Court

Dozens of pro-democracy activists held the first protest rally since his overthrow in Bangkok on Saturday.

The gathering, outside an upmarket shopping centre, was illegal under martial law but ended without incident.

The new leadership has drawn criticism from rights groups for banning all political meetings and assuming legislative duties in the absence of a parliament.

It has also blocked broadcasts it deems harmful, and has threatened to shut down media that violate the new restrictions.

Gen Sonthi has said he will hand over power to an interim civilian head in two weeks and a new election for prime minister can be held by October next year.

Leadership candidates

Military chiefs met on Saturday to discuss possible candidates for the office of prime minister.

They are expected to provide a shortlist including leading economists and judges to King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who will name a new leader on Wednesday.

The former head of the World Trade Organisation, Supachai Panitchpakdi, is among the front-runners for the job, reports say.

Mr Panitchpakdi is now chairman of the UN Conference on Trade and Development.

Another candidate for PM is said to be Pridiyathorn Devakula, the head of the central bank.

The coup followed months of growing tension in Thailand, with protests against Mr Thaksin and a general election which was annulled due to concerns about its legitimacy.

Gen Sonthi has said he was acting in line with the wishes of the Thai people, accusing the old government of corruption and fostering divisions in the country.

Television footage has been released of a royal statement endorsing the coup, confirming the coup leaders' claims that they had the king's backing.




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