Supachai 'to discuss terms' for PM's post
Former WTO chief has tentatively accepted invitation to lead an interim government
Supachai Panitchpakdi has tentatively accepted the ruling military council's invitation to become Thailand's interim prime minister, high-placed sources said yesterday.
Dr Supachai's agreement came after Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda and former National Security Council secretary-general Prasong Soonsiri helped persuade him to accept the post, a council source said.
The news was confirmed last night by a person close to Supachai, who is secretary-general of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and former director-general of the World Trade Organisation.
He was reportedly due to return to Bangkok last night to hold talks with CDRM leaders.
"The Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy has picked Supachai for his capability to salvage the country's sagging economy and remedy its image, tarnished by the coup," the source said.
"There is nothing for Supachai to lose working as caretaker prime minister for one year," the source said. "This can even be another top honour for him after his record as WTO chief."
Supachai has three years remaining in his term as UNCTAD secretary-general.
Another source said that Prem approached Supachai himself, seeing him as the most suitable choice to be interim premier. The two had good relations since Supachai served as president of the Thai Military Bank, the source noted.
"Supachai was well accepted and respected among the armed forces, partly thanks to his service at the military bank," the source said.
Meanwhile, the junta secretary said yesterday the ruling military council would become the protector of the interim government once the new prime minister is announced next week.
The CDRM will be renamed the Council of National Security (CNS), General Winai Phattiyakul said.
"We will not be the prime minister's boss and the prime minister will not be our boss, either," Winai said.
General Winai briefed the Bangkok-based diplomats yesterday on the timeline towards democracy, together with Foreign Ministry permanent secretary Krit Garnjana-Goonchorn.
The CNS, expected to be officially announced at the end of this week, would assist the new government in overseeing the country, to sustain economic and social stability in order to accomplish the junta's mission, Winai said.
The CNS would not be directly related to the current National Security Council, which oversees routine security matters. Winai is its secretary general.
The military leaders have finished drafting an interim charter, which will come into force by the end of this week as the legal platform for running the Kingdom during the transition period. The entire process of democratisation following last week's coup d'etat would take a total of eight months and 15 days, Winai said.
The interim prime minister, whom the junta judges capable of maintaining economic development and international recognition, as well as helping to process the drafting of a new constitution for political reform, would be named by early next week, he said.
Winai said he had no idea who was on the short-list to become the next prime minister but said the person would be honest, courageous and well respected.
After the interim charter comes into force next week, the junta will select about 250 people to be members of the legislature, he said.
Later, the junta will open a people's assembly with 2,000 representatives from various sectors, professions and regions who will be asked to elect 200 constitution drafters from their number. The drafters will have six months to write the text and two-and-a-half months more for screening, reading by the CNS, and a public referendum to endorse the new constitution.
A total of 87 diplomats attended yesterday's briefing. They represented 65 countries and 14 international organisations. Their questions mainly concerned the well-being of detained former ministers from the Thaksin administration and details of the timeline.
Krit said the junta begged the diplomats for a better understanding of its need to seize power.
"For those who see [only the] dark side of the coup, we beg them to have an open mind to see the situation and to revise their opinion, if many things improve," Krit said the diplomats were told.
Meanwhile, a source said the next task for the military chiefs would be to look for evidence linking Thaksin to alleged tainting of the monarchy.
Junta leader, General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, called on Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda yesterday, and they discussed candidates to be interim premier, and the annual military transfers.
Sonthi said in a telephone interview afterwards that Prem advised the Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM) to select the interim PM carefully and to ensure fairness in the military transfers.
"He said the next prime minister should be a good and honest person who will truly serve the country. And the transfers of military officials and civil servants must be fair," Sonthi said. "I told him that we [the CDRM] will ensure peace for the country and fairness to all."
Sonthi's heavily-guarded motorcade arrived at Prem's Si Sao Thewet residence at about 3pm.