CDRM moves to shore up image
Pridiyathorn out of contention for interim PM; prominent pro-democracy citizens picked to advise, boost confidence
The ruling military council has moved quickly to shore up its image by appointing dozens of pro-minent civilians to serve as its advisers on economics, foreign affairs, ethics and good governance, and social reconciliation and justice.
MR Pridiyathorn Devakula, the Bank of Thailand gov-ernor, will definitely not be-
come the new interim prime minister after the Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM) named him yesterday as chairman of the advisory council on economics.
Other names in the 19-member council include Dr Ammar Siamwalla, Dr Kosit Pampiem-ras, Dr Chalongphob Susang-karn, Khunying Jada Wattana-siritham, Dr Piyasavasti Am-ranand, Dr Phasuk Phongpaichit, Dr Veerathai Santipraphop, Sivaporn Darandaranda and Atja Taulanond.
Vitaya Vejjajiva, a former permanent secretary of the Foreign Ministry, has been appointed as chairman of the advisory council on foreign af-fairs.
This council is made up mostly of career officials and diplo-mats in the Foreign Ministry, including Tej Boonnag, Krit Karnchana-kunchorn, Nit Pibulsongkram and Phisarn Manawaphat.
Associate Professor Churee Vichitvadha-karn, who chairs Thailand's Transparency Inter-national and who teaches at the National Institute of Development Administration, has been named as chairwoman of the advisory council on ethics, governance and prevention of corruption and abuse of power.
Members in this 13-mem-ber council include Dej-udom Krairit, Sungsidh Piriyarang-
san and Professor Suraphol Nitikraiphoj.
Phaiboon Wattanasiritham has also been appointed to chair an advisory council on recon-
ciliation and social justice. Its 26 members include Gothom Arya, Chaiwat Satha-anand, Theeraphat Serirangsan, Phi-phop Thongchai, Pratheep Ungsongtham Hata, Srisak Valiphodom, Surichai Wangkaew and Sophon Supaphong.
One political source said the CDRM had set up the advisory councils in bid to restore confidence in Thailand as quickly as possible.
"They need these advisory councils to act as their eyes and ears because elements of the Thaksin government are still holding key positions in the country, such as the permanent secretaries of different ministries and agencies and the provincial governors nationwide," the source said.
However, the military rulers had put together a long list of advisers in a hurry, without informing or approaching many of them in advance.
"I have not been consulted whatsoever. I have said that the coup is wrong. How can I serve on its advisory board?" said Chaiwat Satha-anand, who teaches political science at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University.
The military's televised announcement, officially termed an order, had said he was appointed to be an adviser on a panel for reconciliation.
Several others also expressed surprise at seeing their names on the list of advisers. The CDRM is believed to have approached the chairman or chairwoman of each advisory body first before asking him or her to come up with a list of names.
Asked why some appointees had not been contacted, military spokesman Lt-General Palangoon Klaharn said: "It is not necessary. Some matters are urgent."
General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, the coup leader, said the temporary constitution would define
the role of the military chiefs as advisers to the interim government. He also hinted that the new prime minister could be an ex-military man.
The comments by Sonthi gave the first indication that military leaders who seized power a week ago do not plan to withdraw entirely from the political process - a prospect that critics said was another blow to democracy.
Sonthi earlier told reporters the draft constitution would be reviewed by academics and submitted to His Majesty the King for royal endorsement by Sunday, at which point a new leader could be named.
The military council hoped to install a new civilian prime minister "as soon as possible" but was still narrowing down its candidates for the job, Sonthi said. He did not rule out a former soldier for the temporary role.
"When you say civilian prime minister, you will see that soldiers after they retire can be called civilians," Sondhi said in a response to a question during a nationally televised press conference.
His comment was generally seen as suggesting that former Army commander Surayud Chulanont, respected for his professionalism and a member of the King's inner circle of advisers, remained a leading candidate for the job.
Sources said on Monday that Dr Supachai Panitchpakdi, the secretary-general of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, had been approached to become premier.
Under the temporary constitution, the ruling council would be "transformed" into the National Security Council to advise the government on security matters, Sonthi said.
"We do not know what the internal situation will be in the future," Sondhi said. "As of today, the situation is calm, orderly and peaceful, but we do not know what is going to happen in the future."
The Nation, AP