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(photo credit: AP)
Thailand's military coup leaders may be losing their sense of humor.
Five days after instructing soldiers to keep smiling, the ruling council decided Wednesday that there is a limit to how much fun soldiers should have.
They ruled that sexy dancers were forbidden near tanks and tourists were no longer permitted to handle weapons when posing for photographs with troops still deployed in Bangkok.
The military toppled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in a bloodless coup Sept. 19. As soon as the danger of violence subsided the troops mingled freely with residents and foreigners and their tanks became an instant tourist attraction. Hundreds had photos snapped of themselves posing with the soldiers.
At first the ruling generals turned a blind eye when a troupe of go-go dancers with naked midriffs and sexy camouflaged pants performed in front of the tanks to be followed the next day by dancers in traditional attire.
But on Wednesday, Deputy Supreme Commander Gen. Boonsang Niempradit said the go-go dancing was "not appropriate."
"We have to maintain the seriousness of the coup," said Lt. Gen. Palangoon Klaharn, a military spokesman. "The police should ensure that provocative performances are kept at a distance from soldiers while they are on duty."
Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. Saprang Kanlayanimatr, one of the major players in last week's coup, ordered the closure of the radio stations. He also ordered several former lawmakers and local politicians from Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party to report to him after the coup.
Maj. Gen. Thaweep Netniyom, a spokesman for the council, said a temporary constitution would be presented to King Bhumibol Adulyadej for approval "probably on Saturday evening," and the announcement of an interim prime minister would follow, probably on Sunday.
Former army commander Surayud Chulanont, a member of the king's inner circle of advisers, is considered a leading candidate for the job.
Asked Wednesday if he had been asked to take the premiership, Surayud told reporters, "No, not yet. But if they contact me, I would have to think about it because I am concerned about the political situation." He did not elaborate.
Surayud was a highly respected professional soldier who, after retirement, made it clear he had no political ambitions. But given his background, the appointment might be viewed by the international community as evidence the military wanted to steer the direction of the interim government.
On Tuesday, the military rulers announced they had written a draft of the temporary constitution appointing themselves advisers to any interim government, and hinted they might replace the ousted premier with an ex-military man.
The comments by coup leader Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin were the first indication that military rulers do not plan to withdraw entirely from the political process _ a prospect that critics condemned as another blow to democracy.
The ruling military council has ordered political parties to halt all activities, warned media not to distribute news that could disturb the peace, and banned public gatherings of more than five people.
In an apparent attempt to appease its critics, the ruling military council late Tuesday named dozens of prominent civilians as its advisers _ although, in a public relations debacle, some said they hadn't been informed.
"I have not been consulted whatsoever. I have said that the coup is wrong. How can I serve on its advisory board?" said Chaiwat Satha-anand, who teaches political science at Bangkok's Thammasat University.
Asked why some appointees had not been contacted, military council spokesman Lt. Gen. Palangoon Klaharn said, "It is not necessary. Some matters are urgent."
Sondhi accused the former government of corruption and causing divisions in Thai society, and said at the time of the coup that a new civilian leader would be installed within two weeks - or by Oct. 4.
Sondhi said on Tuesday the council - which has shortened its English name to Council for Democratic Reform, dropping the earlier "under Constitutional Monarchy" - was narrowing down its candidates for premier, and suggested that former soldiers were also being considered.
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