General Surayud Chulanont Thailand's 24th Prime Minister since the kingdom became a constitutional monarchy in 1932, and the first since 1992, who was appointed, rather than elected. Retired General Surayud Chulanont was the head of Thailand's Interim Government between 2006 and 2008. Currently, he is a Privy Councilor to King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Surayud came from a long line of military leaders. His father, LtCol Phayom, left the army when Surayud was a boy, and joined the Communist Party of Thailand. As a young army officer, Surayud led his troops against his father's communist cells in northern Thailand. He conducted operations against the Communist Party of Thailand while his father was its leader.
He was a right-hand man to General Prem when Prem Tinsulanonda became Army Commander, and then, Prime Minister in the wake of the disastrous 1976 massacre at Thamassat University and several detested governments.
In 1992, General Surayud became commander of the Special Warfare Command, where one of his officers was Sonthi Boonratklin the head of the 2006 coup d'ιtat that toppled Thaksin.
General Surayud fiercely fought incursions by Burmese troops and Wa drug smugglers supported by the Rangoon government. He also ended a policy of deporting Burmese refugees, especially ethnic Karens, back to Burma. In March 2002, Surayud ordered to destroy drug labs and military bases controlled by the United Wa State Army deep inside the Myanmar territory. None of this was popular with Thaksin (then P.M.), who sought a business-friendly policy towards Burma (dealings that are now under corruption investigation by Supreme Court).
Thaksin effectively fired General Surayud and appointed his cousin Chaiyasit Shinawatra as Army Commander in 2003, a disastrous move that many credit as the start of the resurgence of violence in the South, not to mention an apparent proof of major nepotism on the part of Thaksin.
Upon retirement from the Army, King Bhumibol Adulyadej appointed Surayud to his Privy Council of personal advisors. Surayud and Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda played a key role in the promotion of General Sonthi Boonratklin to the position of Army Commander.
The 38-year career in the military earned General Surayud a reputation for effectiveness, tact and incorruptibility.
As Prime Minister appointed by the military junta, Surayud led a highly controversial Interim Government. Its popularity plunged from 60% in 2006, to as low as 13.6% in 2008. There was a significant worsening in perceived levels of corruption during his administration. His Deputy Finance Minister, Sommai Pasee, was sentenced to jail for abuse of power. Surayud raised military budget by 35% and was accused of economic mismanagement, rampant human rights abuses, and flip-flopping on numerous policies.
In January 2008, shortly after Surayud ended his term as Prime Minister, he was reappointed to King Bhumibol Adulyadej's Privy Council.