Gen. Sunthorn Kongsompong, who overthrew Thailand's elected government on Saturday, is described as an impulsive military commander with little political astuteness.

Before Saturday's apparently bloodless coup, Sunthorn, 59, had been armed forces chief for less than a year and was due to retire in 1991. He had clashed a number of times with the government of Chatichai Choonhaven, who had been Thailand's premier since 1988.In 1989, the prominent Khao Piset newspaper described Sunthorn as "a man who can be easily read," whose political outlook centers on security.

"His straightforward and open personality - described by some people as impulsive - make many realize he is not a cunning man," the newspaper said. It added: "He might be a military commander bold enough to stage a coup."

A member of the infantry corps, Sunthorn first rose to prominence as commander of Thailand's Special Warfare Unit.

He took over as military commander from Gen. Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, an appointee of then Premier Prem Tinsulanonda. He was regarded as a close supporter of Chavalit, who appointed Sunthorn to be chief of staff in 1987.

After moving to the Supreme Command headquarters, Sunthorn established a reputation as a loyal subordinate both to Chavalit and Prem.

Sunthorn has been described as possessing little political sophistication.

"He may lack a delicate personality when dealing with international strategy or may lack depth in consideration of such issues affecting national security as economic changes, ideology or philosophy," the Khao Piset daily said.