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Thai PM Adviser Agrees to Be Finance Minister

Economic think-tank chief Chalongphob Sussangkarn has agreed to become finance minister of Thailand's military-appointed interim government, the Nation newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Chalongphob, whose Thailand Development Research Institute opposed capital controls imposed in December to curb speculation in the baht, is an economic adviser to Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont.

He would replace Pridiyathorn Devakula, who resigned last week, the Nation said. An aide to Chalongphob declined to comment on the report, saying: "Let's wait for the announcement".

Chalongphob, 56, a Cambridge-educated economist who once worked for the World Bank and lectured at the University of California, Berkley, was the latest candidate to emerge since Pridiyathorn quit, citing cabinet infighting.

Former central bank governor Chatu Mongol Sonakul, who now runs a posh Italian restaurant in Bangkok's newest shopping mall, was an early favorite. Virabongsa Ramangkura, an economist who was deputy prime minister in 1997when a baht devaluation triggered the Asian economic crisis, was another.

Kosit Pampiemras, now a deputy prime minister and industry minister, appeared to have dropped out of the running after Surayud said Kosit would handle economic matters until a replacement was found.

Surayud is expected to carry out a minor reshuffle of his cabinet following Pridiyathorn's resignation, but it was not clear when he would send a revised list of ministers to revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej for endorsement.

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