However much the leaders of Thailand's coup d'etat try to legitimise their actions by claiming they have democracy foremost in mind, the new prime minister they have chosen and the constitution they have drawn up point squarely to a military dictatorship. This does not restore international confidence in the nation or the rights of Thais; instead, it guarantees suspicion until full democracy is resurrected. Only when the last shards of military influence have been removed and a legitimately elected government is in place under a constitution drawn up with popular consent can democratic development resume. Even then, years will pass before the wounds to Thailand's international reputation caused by the military's actions are properly healed. The appointment by the military of retired army commander Surayud Chulanont as prime minister and his approval by King Bhumibol Adulyadej may fare well with middle- and upper-class Thais. These sectors were disenchanted with ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra. Mr Surayud's record as an adviser to the king as a privy councillor and his reputation as a military reformer - for having stressed in the past that the army should stay out of politics - will make his appointment easier to accept. Nonetheless, he has no experience in fundamentals such as economic policy - crucial to Thailand's development. Then there is his military background. Thais vowed to move on from military leaders when the remnants of the last coup were removed and the first free and fair elections in decades held in 1992. Initially, the junta behind the latest coup had said it would appoint a civilian prime minister. By effectively going back on its word and choosing someone of the same military background, its true intentions may well have been revealed. The interim constitution approved yesterday ensures the junta retains its grip on power, granting it the right to appoint a legislature and sack the prime minister. A permanent constitution will be drafted by next October by a committee hand-picked by the coup leaders. Political parties will be barred from the process, ensuring voices independent of the military can be shut out. All the junta's orders remain in effect, among them a ban on activities by political parties and gatherings of more than five people, and the limiting of free speech. The coup leaders have also granted themselves and anyone working for them immunity from prosecution. The coup leaders claim to be acting for the good of Thailand's people. Whatever their intentions, their actions do not give this impression. They look more like orders handed down by dictators governed by self interest. The coup leaders may not have seized power violently, but they have nonetheless disregarded basic human rights and freedoms. Only by giving up the authority they illegally gained and handing it back to the people can they truly be working for the common good.