Thai cabinet meets to sort out political mess

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BANGKOK, Oct 1 (Reuters) Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont called a meeting with cabinet ministers caught in shareholding controversies on Monday, a day after a small bomb exploded near the army headquarters and wounded two people.

The meeting also involved plans to appoint newly retired Army chief Sonthi Boonyaratglin, who ousted elected Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in a bloodless coup last year, as deputy prime minister in charge of national security, a cabinet minister said.

''General Sonthi has agreed to take the post of deputy prime minister for national security. A royal appointment is expected in a couple of days,'' Defence Minister Boonrawd Somtas told INN radio news agency yesterday after playing golf with Surayud.

It was not clear whether Sonthi would also become Interior Minister, responsible for the December 23 general election, after Aree Wongsearaya quit the job over a conflict of interest.

Aree was one of seven cabinet ministers found by the anti-graft agency to hold stakes in companies above the limit set for ministers.

Three, including Aree, have already quit, and the rest are under pressure from the media and political opponents to follow suit.

A small bomb exploded at a phone booth near Army headquarters yesterday late evening, wounding two bomb squad members, an incident which Sonthi's assistants blamed on the ''old power clique,'' referring to supporters of Thaksin.

Bangkok was hit by a spate of small bombs on New Year's Eve, which killed three and injured scores of Thais and tourists. The government and the military also blamed them at the time on Thaksin supporters, a charge they denied.

There have been no arrests following those bombs.

Reuters SYU DB1021

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