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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 February 2007, 17:09 GMT
New Thai economic adviser quits
Somkid Jatusripitak
Somkid Jatusripitak said his intentions had been misinterpreted
A top economics aide to Thailand's deposed prime minister has quit his new job with the military-backed government after protests.

Somkid Jatusripitak stepped down less than a week after he was given the job of explaining the government's new "sufficiency economy" policy.

He said he was quitting in the interests of national unity.

Meanwhile, speaking to the BBC, Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont has rejected recent criticism of his leadership.

Opponents of ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in a September coup, threatened street protests over Gen Surayud's appointment of Mr Somkid.

I have to watch and listen because I don't have any support base like a political party
Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont

Mr Somkid had been asked by the prime minister last week to head a team that could clarify the country's new economic policy.

"I am disappointed that my good intention to serve the country has been misinterpreted by some, but I do not want this to become a political issue that will deepen the divide in the country," Mr Somkid told reporters.

The government has had trouble explaining, particularly to foreign investors, its vision for a more nationalist, protectionist approach to the economy.

The policy is an abrupt change from the more aggressive economic policies that marked Mr Thaksin's administration.

Election confidence

Gen Surayud, appointed as interim prime minister last October, has also been criticised in the Thai press for failing to tackle issues like corruption, a surge in violence in the mainly Muslim south and a lack of investor confidence.

The prime minister told the BBC that his lack of a popular mandate was holding him back from more decisive action.

"In an interim government you have all sides - all the politicians, all of the pressure groups who're trying to convince you that this is the right way of doing things," he said.

"But I have to watch and listen because I don't have any support base like a political party at all."

Gen Surayud said he was still confident that Thailand would return to an elected government by the end of the year.

Heightened concern

Critics questioned the choice of appointing a former finance minister of Mr Thaksin's to explain the new policy.

The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) - which had led mass public protests against Mr Thaksin last year over allegations of corruption - threatened further protests.

A spokesman for the group, said Mr Somkid's appointment would have increased disunity among the Thai people.

Mr Somkid had distanced himself from Mr Thaksin, saying he was not in touch with the former prime minister.

"He has his own path... and I have mine. I have my own thoughts and ideals, which are independent," he said.

Gen Surayud suspended the advisory panel after Mr Somkid's resignation, the AFP news agency reports.

Some analysts believe Mr Somkid's resignation will only heighten concern about the management of the economy by the interim government, which has already made a number of questionable decisions over the country's economy.

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