Thai PM: I did not back coup

Military-appointed leader says he will smooth way for democracy, then step down.

    Surayud says one of his main objectives is to normalize relations with the restive south

    The military leadership that deposed the last premier, Thaksin Shinawatra, has promised to hold democratic elections within a year.

    "I hope I can reduce the violence down to the minimum level we can manage"

    Surayud Chulanont, speaking on on-going violence in Thailand's south

    "My idea is just trying to set a foundation on two key issues," Surayud told Al Jazeera.
    "One is the political problem for the kingdom of Thailand, the second is the situation in the south. If I can lay down the groundwork for the next elected government to carry on, that's my ambition."
    So far, the government's policy towards the troubles in the south has consisted of a formal apology for Thaksin's past actions and a handful of personal visits to push the message of reconciliation.
    Pressed on what other plans are in motion to end the violence, Surayud admitted that he has not had meaningful meetings with anyone purporting to represent any of the insurgent groups.
    Indeed, he said that identifying those behind the violence is a problem.
    'Hearts and minds'

    The coup on September 19 was Thailand's 18th
    since the end of absolute monarchy in 1933

    Instead, he said, he aims to win hearts and minds by directly communicating with the people.
    "What I'm trying to do is to talk to the majority of people, not the small group of people. I don't have to talk to the representatives; I just talk to the kids in school, thousands of them at once. I talk to kids in colleges."
    None the less, he holds out little hope of personally bringing peace to the region. "I hope I can reduce the violence down to the minimum level we can manage," he said, ruling out any imminent end to the violence.
    "I don't think it's feasible during one year time. It will be very difficult, I have to admit that."
    Since the September coup, 127 people have died in attacks across Thailand's southern provinces.
    One thing is certain, Surayad said, there is no possibility of autonomy for the troubled southern provinces.
    "Even the Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi told me frankly that he's not [in] support of an idea of separating the southern provinces from the Thai."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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