New constitution indicates the junta's influence will prevail Surayud Chulanont has for years said both privately and publicly that the Thai military must stay out of politics. Confirmed last night as the interim prime minister to guide Thailand to elections by next October, the retired general must somehow deliver on that message - despite signs to the contrary. Mr Surayud, 63, has no greater task than ensuring the soldiers who led the coup against ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra two weeks ago now effectively return to barracks, allowing him to lead a civilian government from the front. Despite him being seen as a mentor to the modern soldiers who led the coup, it is likely to remain a difficult and delicate task. The junta's pledge to hand over power within two weeks carries some thorny caveats. The interim constitution approved along with his appointment by King Bhumibol Adulyadej appears to suggest the junta is digging in for the long haul. The self-styled Council on National Security will oversee security matters and retains the right to remove Mr Surayud and his civilian team, the new document states. It will also appoint all 250 members of the new parliament, apparently limiting his choice of cabinet. Significantly, the council will also appoint the 2,000-strong body that will re-write the constitution. Anand Panyarachun, the last civilian to serve as premier under military rule, last week warned of the difficulties in dealing with the generals. The new prime minister must have full rights to oversee the constitutional effort, he warned in a rare interview. The last document 'covered all the bases' he said, covering human and political rights, the environment and conflicts of interest. The new document must keep those and go further, strengthening the checks and balances on those in power - a job for a wide range of civilians, not generals, he added. Mr Surayud is respected across the military and political spectrum, having cleaned up a corrupt army and served in retirement as a privy councillor advising the king, a role he will now give up. He also carries extensive western and regional diplomatic contacts after his years in military intelligence. He is likely to need all his skills and connections in his latest role. Analysts believe the goodwill so far accorded the junta across the Thai political establishment and society could swiftly evaporate if Mr Surayud proves too close to a military that has vowed to strengthen democratic rule, rather than their own hold on power. The junta has pledged to remove the tanks and soldiers posted across Bangkok within days. Other less visible elements of martial law may still remain, however. Soldiers are now posted inside radio and television stations to ensure reports are sufficiently pro-coup. Some radio stations in the north perceived as being pro-Thaksin have been shut down. Junta sources say the generals see an attempt by Mr Thaksin to reclaim power as the biggest security threat. The nature of that threat could change if public tension mounts over perceptions that they are clinging on to power - further complicating the junta's stated desire of taking a back seat.