BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) – The army commander who seized Thailand’s government in a quick, bloodless coup pledged Wednesday to hold elections by October 2007, and received a ringing endorsement from the country’s revered king.

Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin also hinted that ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra may face prosecution.

Sondhi said he would act as prime minister for two weeks until a new leader is chosen by the Council of Administrative Reform, that an interim constitution would be drafted within that time, and that Thailand’s foreign policy and international agreements would remain unchanged.

The Bush administration denounced the coup, saying it was a “step backward for democracy.” Australia called it a “great disappointment,” and the European Union also condemned it.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej appointed Sondhi as head of the council “in order to create peace in the country,” according to an announcement on state-run television.

“All people should remain peaceful and civil servants should listen to orders from Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin from now on,” it said.

Sondhi led a precision takeover without firing a shot, sending soldiers and tanks to guard major intersections and surround government buildings while the popularly elected Thaksin, accused of corruption and undermining democratic institutions, was in New York attending the U.N. General Assembly.

Asked at a news conference if there would be moves to confiscate Thaksin’s vast assets, Sondhi said that “those who have committed wrongdoings have to be prosecuted according to the law.” He did not elaborate.

In launching Thailand’s first coup in 15 years, Sondhi said on nationwide television that the overthrow was needed “in order to resolve the conflict and bring back normalcy and harmony among people.”

“I am the one who decided to stage the coup. No one support

ed me,” he said.

Sondhi, 59, known to be close to the king, is a Muslim in a Buddhist-dominated nation.

State-run television also said that Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin had dismissed the state audit commissioners and given additional powers to the auditor general Jaruvan Maintaka to investigative government corruption. Analysts said the move is expected to make it easier for Jaruvan to investigate allegations of corruption involving Thaksin and his ministers and could eventually lead to the confiscation of his assets.

Thaksin arrived Wednesday in London on a private visit. A chartered Thailand Airways jet landed at Gatwick Airport at 5:35 p.m. London time (12:35 p.m. EDT), the airport’s press office said.

A British government spokesman said Thaksin Shinawatra had no meetings scheduled with Prime Minister Tony Blair or other officials.


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