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Gen Pravit 'is suitable'

Supreme Commander General Boonsarng Niumpradit yesterday repeated his view the next defence minister should be an officer and neutral. He suggested former Army chief General Pravit Wongsuwan would be a good choice.

"The new defence minister should have the right qualifications as well as an understanding of soldiers and Pravit appears to a suitable candidate for the job," he said.

Boonsarng denied a claim that Deputy Prime Minister Sonthi Boonyaratglin took a week-long trip abroad as a gesture of defiance at the Cabinet line-up picked by the People Power Party.

He spoke in light of news reports that former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was pushing for former supreme commander General Somdhat Attanand to get the defence portfolio.

Army chief General Anupong Paochinda said the Council of National Security (CNS) had already become inactive to ensure a smooth transition for the elected government. He said the military had no preference on who the defence minister should be.

"The CNS just made a suggestion for the appointment of an officer to the job - that's all," he said.

Anupong said he had no opinion on whether Somdhat or other candidates should get the job. And he had never stated a preference for Pravit.

"The armed forces have made it clear that soldiers will not get involved in politics," he said, adding he had not met with Thaksin or his wife Khunying Pojaman as speculated by some local papers.

"I think it is impossible for such a meeting to happen as Thaksin is banned from politics and the military will not intervene in political affairs," he said.

People Power spokesman Kuthep Saikrajang said his party welcomed any unbiased views on the appointment of the defence minister.

MP Chaowarin Latthasaksiri said the CNS had no business in swaying People Power on how it should choose the defence minister.

Chaowarin also dismissed news reports that Somdhat was a top contender for the job, saying he had never heard his name mentioned at party executive meetings.

Panya Thiewsangwan

The Nation

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