Thai Leader Says No Plans for Now to End Martial Law

Thailand's military-appointed government says there are no plans for the time being to lift martial law. The government hinted last week that it might do so ahead of this week's Asia-Pacific summit in Vietnam. The government backed away from that possibility after the interim prime minister was assured that the imposition of martial law will not be discussed at the APEC meeting.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Hanoi will be attended by President Bush and leaders of other countries that have denounced Thailand's September 19th military coup. The same governments have urged the ruling generals in Thailand to lift martial law quickly.

Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont will attend the summit, and could have been in for some uncomfortable questioning from other government leaders. Just last week, Thai Defense Minister Boonrawd Somtat said the government would consider ending martial law before the summit begins.

On Tuesday, however, Mr. Surayud emerged from a cabinet meeting to tell reporters that his government has no immediate plan to lift martial law because - in his words - it is not an urgent matter.

He says he was informed that the issue will not be a subject of discussion at the APEC meeting.

Later, Mr. Surayud said it was U.S. Ambassador Ralph Boyce who told him martial law would not come up at the summit. But he said Boyce also told him that the military's seizure of power two months ago was incompatible with democracy. The U.S. embassy would not comment on what it said was a private discussion between the two men.

The prime minister says he does not know when martial law will end.

He says he has to wait for the National Security Council, made up of the generals who led the coup, to recommend such a step.

Although there has been little public opposition to the coup, the generals have argued that they need to retain martial law, because of what they call undercurrents of support for ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The military, in justifying the coup, accused the twice-elected Mr. Thaksin of corruption and abuse of power. The former leader, who was abroad when the coup took place, was photographed shopping in Hong Kong on Tuesday, but has given no indication of any plans to return to Thailand.

The coup leaders have said Mr. Thaksin should not come back until martial law is lifted. But Mr. Surayud says he should stay away until after elections are held next year.