The Thai army chief who staged last month's coup said martial law will remain in place for now, despite international concerns that the military suspended certain civil liberties when it ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
Responding to reports that the U.S. Embassy said it would be worried if martial law wasn't lifted within a week to 10 days, army commander Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin, who led the bloodless Sept. 19 coup, said Wednesday the restrictions imposed after the takeover would not be lifted right away.
"We will have to continue to use it (martial law) because we don't know if anything is going to happen during the transition period," Sondhi said. "We have to wait for the interim government to take full charge in running the country before we can allow everything to return to the normal process."
Aside from some small, student-led protests, and criticism by prominent Thai intellectuals, the coup has met almost no resistance inside Thailand.
But Western nations and human rights groups have called the coup a setback to democracy, and have expressed disapproval of the restrictions imposed by the military, including curbs on press freedoms and limits on public gatherings.
The White House has expressed concerns about an interim constitution introduced by the military council, which appears to give the military ongoing powers, and the lengthy timetable it outlines for democratic elections scheduled for next October.
The interim constitution also gives the military a major political role over the next year, including a say in the drafting of the new permanent constitution and the right to remove the interim prime minister.
Meanwhile, Surayud Chulanont, a former army commander whom the military council appointed as premier on Sunday, indicated he would make public his Cabinet selection next week.
However, one of his first choices, central bank governor Pridiyathorn Devakula, said the Cabinet _ which would rule until the polls next year _ would probably be unveiled sooner.
"The prime minister himself will clarify (the Cabinet list) ... Thursday or Friday," Priyathorn told reporters.
The new Cabinet is expected to include respected technocrats and political figures with clean backgrounds. The military council that ousted Thaksin is investigating allegations of corruption against his government.
Thaksin was in New York during the coup and remains overseas, at his apartment in London. The military has advised him not to return to Thailand for the time being. He faces several corruption probes, but has denied wrongdoing.
Surayud also said his Cabinet will create a new policy aimed at ending southern Thailand's bloody Muslim separatist insurgency, but that it was too early to talk about contacting the shadowy rebels to hold peace talks.
However, the Thai News Agency quoted the army's new regional commander for the south, Lt. Gen. Wirot Buacharun, as saying that insurgent leaders "have signaled their readiness for peace talks" with the military.
More than 1,700 people have died in the three Muslim-majority southern provinces bordering Malaysia since early 2004, with much of the blame placed on Thaksin's iron-fisted strategy to crush the rebels instead of focusing on the grievances in the region.
Most Thais are Buddhists, and Muslims have long complained of discrimination.