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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 November 2006, 13:00 GMT
Thai coup chiefs in extra pay row
Coup leader Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin
Coup leader Gen Sonthi is among those reportedly offered extra pay
Thailand's coup leaders are under fire for allegedly accepting extra payments that effectively double their salaries.

Thai newspapers report that the new cabinet decided to give the leaders of September's coup additional pay on top of their monthly military salaries.

Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont is reported to have defended the move, saying the extra payments were worth it to rid the country of corruption.

Graft was a key reason given for the ousting of PM Thaksin Shinawatra.

Payments for the seven-member Council for National Security (CNS), as the coup leaders call themselves, were agreed by the cabinet on Tuesday.

Members of other bodies, including the National Legislative Assembly, were also awarded salaries.

'Early Christmas present'

Coup leader Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin will get a salary of nearly 120,000 baht ($3,000) per month for chairing the CNS, a similar amount to his monthly military salary, according to the Bangkok Post newspaper.

His deputy, Air Chief Marshal Chalit Phukphasuk, will receive nearly 114,000 baht while the other five CNS members will receive 110,000 baht, in addition to their military salaries.

The coup leaders have also been given positions on the boards of state firms.

The moves drew criticism from Thailand's Nation newspaper, which said it was "egg in the face" for all who had backed the coup and an "early Christmas gift" for those who opposed it.

"What on earth were the coup leaders thinking? I can't figure out any good reason except that they are now so bored with the job already and want to provoke a street protest so as to exit quickly with a good pretext," editor Tulsathit Taptim wrote.

The Bangkok Post quoted Prime Minister Surayud as saying that the extra salaries were worth paying if it meant getting rid of corruption.

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