Thai Coup Leaders Draft New Constitution

Thailand's military junta has drafted a new interim constitution, and the ruling generals say they are close to naming a civilian prime minister.

The generals say they will submit the draft constitution to King Bhumibol Adulyadej for his endorsement. They also said they were narrowing down a list of candidates for prime minister.

A spokesman for the junta, Major General Thawit Netniyon, emphasizes the prepared constitution is only meant to be temporary.

"This is just to let the interim government have some authority to run the interim government until the National Assembly will be set up to draft the constitution ... to be followed by the general election, and that is the time the interim constitution will be finished," he said.

The bloodless coup was carried out a week ago to remove then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra from power. Since then, the junta has declared martial law, thrown out the existing constitution, restricted gatherings and political activities, and also placed restrictions on the news media.

The coup leaders have promised to name a civilian prime minister by next week, and to hold free elections by October of next year.

A political scientist at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, Panitan Wattanayagorn, says the military's choice of a prime minister will have to deal with both the coup itself and the reasons for it.

"The leadership that will take control of Thailand in the next few days is very critical in the sense the he or she has to lead the country into a desirable position or situation by solving the political crisis, including corruption problems that are used as the reason for taking over," he said.

The junta has also established a new anti-corruption commission to work alongside an existing commission, both of them investigating allegations of corruption during the Thaksin administration.

The new, more powerful commission has the power to freeze the assets of Mr. Thaksin and his former aides if evidence of wrongdoing is found. Mr. Thaksin was in New York for the U.N. General Assembly when the coup took place, and is now staying in London.

The coup has been criticized by human-rights groups and governments around the world. But the takeover has generally been welcomed by the Thai public and opposition in the country has been minimal.