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Last Updated: Friday, 29 September 2006, 12:20 GMT 13:20 UK
Thaksin military allies sidelined
Soldiers in Bangkok
The coup was necessary to prevent violent clashes, generals say
Thailand's new military government has moved to sideline supporters of ousted PM Thaksin Shinawatra in an annual reshuffle of high-ranking officers.

The move came as a coup leader stressed that the military would not interfere once an interim civilian prime minister had been named, due in the coming days.

Coup leaders, concerned at negative global reaction to the coup, appealed to foreign media for fair reporting.

The US has imposed sanctions and called for quick elections.

The annual military reshuffle comes just 10 days after Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted from power in a bloodless coup while he was out of the country.

I can assure you it is impossible that we will control the government
Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin

The annual reshuffle had been a point of tension under Mr Thaksin, who was suspected of promoting his allies to win influence over the military.

A number of Mr Thaksin's supporters were removed from the chain of command, while several who had supported the coup were promoted.

One of the coup leaders, Gen Winai Phattiyakul, was made permanent secretary of the Defence Ministry, in moves approved by the King, Thai media reported.

'Bloodbath'

A new constitution and prime minister - who will serve until promised elections in October 2007 - are due to be in place this weekend, the military leadership has said.

Speculation is rife that a respected former army chief, Surayud Chulanont, has been chosen as the new interim PM, but the military leadership has refused to confirm it.

Gen Surayud Chulanont
The spotlight has fallen on Gen Surayud as possible interim PM

One of the coup leaders attempted to allay concerns that the military would still remain the power behind any new government.

"I can assure you it is impossible that we will control the government," Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin told Reuters news agency. "We will be the government's tool to keep peace."

Gen Sonthi said the military coup came about suddenly, and was as a result of intelligence reports saying "hundreds of thousands" of pro- and anti-Thaksin supporters planned to descend on Bangkok.

"There would have been a bloodbath," he said.

Press restrictions

Last week's coup was welcomed in Thailand, especially in the capital Bangkok. But it has been condemned by most Western governments as a step backwards.

Alarmed at the perception of their actions in the international community, the new military leadership called a meeting with foreign news outlets.

Gen Winai again stressed that the coup was the only way to retain democracy in Thailand, and he appealed for fairer coverage.

"You've got to be fair and look at the opinion of the Thai people," he told reporters in discussions that were described as friendly.

He also asked broadcasters to understand why parts of their output were censored, and said they were considering lifting restrictions soon.

The US state department announced it was cutting off $24m (12.8m) in military assistance to Thailand, although funding for humanitarian purposes would continue.

"The United States continues to urge a rapid return to democratic rule and early elections in Thailand," said Sean McCormack, adding that funds would be reinstated once an elected government was in office.

Thailand is a key US diplomatic and non-Nato ally and has played an important role in the US "war on terror" following the 11 September 2001 attacks.

The coup was staged on 19 September while the prime minister was in New York, attending the UN General Assembly.

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




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