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A Change In Thailand

Surayud Chulanont, a retired army general, is Thailand's new interim prime minister. He was appointed by the military council, which in September overthrew the civilian government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The Thai military council also announced a draft constitution. According to news reports, the former prime minister was accused of widespread corruption.

U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey commented on developments:

"In naming Prime Minister Surayud, the council did fulfill a pledge that it made to its people as well as to the international community to name an interim prime minister within two weeks of taking power. And we hope that the new prime minister as well as those in his cabinet will work with a broad spectrum of Thai society, and we hope this does facilitate an early return to democratic rule."

Mr. Casey says the U.S. remains concerned about Mr. Surayud's ability to govern while there are still "restrictions that have been placed on political activity and freedom of expression":

"My understanding is the interim constitution that he will be working under provides guarantees for basic civil liberties and basic rights of the people, and that that is something we very much want to see carried out and we want to make sure that that interim government lives up to the letter of that interim constitution."

On September 28th, in response to the coup, the U.S. suspended nearly twenty-four million dollars' worth of military assistance to the Thai government. Under U.S. law, the U.S must review and cut some categories of financial assistance to countries whose duly elected head of government is deposed by a military coup. U.S. humanitarian assistance to Thailand for H-I-V/AIDS prevention and preparations for a possible avian flu epidemic continue.

Dana Perino, a White House spokeswoman, says the U.S. "call[s] for clear and unambiguous protection for civil liberties by the interim authorities and the military, and a quick return to democratic elections" in Thailand. She says, "Thailand's image in the eyes of the world and U.S.-Thai relations will suffer until Thailand returns to its place as a democratic leader in Asia."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.