[JURIST] Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont [official website; BBC profile] said Tuesday that his government will lift martial law "as soon as we can and when the situation is suitable." The promise came during the first cabinet meeting of the new government, which was installed [BBC report] Monday after receiving approval of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Human rights groups and the US government [JURIST reports] have urged Thailand [JURIST news archive] to revoke the martial law imposed [JURIST report] on the country by military leaders who seized power from former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra [JURIST news archive] in a bloodless coup [JURIST report] on September 19. King Adulyadej urged the new government to help restore Thailand's international reputation by correcting its image in the eyes of foreigners.
Early in October, King Adulyadej approved [JURIST report] a 39-article interim constitution [text] drawn up by the military leadership that provides for a civilian government. The charter, however, preserves the military's say in policy through a Council for National Security [Bangkok Post backgrounder], which has the power to dismiss civilian leaders. Military officials have suggested it will take about nine months to draw up a permanent constitution, with a national referendum and elections to follow. AP has more.