Thaksin departure doesn't signal end to Thai political crisis

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Wednesday, April 5, 2006

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Despite promising to step down before the new parliament convenes, caretaker Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is still embroiled in controversy. Opposition parties have stated they will not run in the by-elections on April 23.

Democrat leader Jurin Laksanawisit was quoted in ThaiDay, an insert in the Thai edition of the International Herald Tribune as saying, "the three parties still do not trust him because he is still the caretaker Prime Minister and behind the person who will be the new prime minister."

Leading candidates for the PM's job are Thai Rak Thai (lit. Thais love Thais) party Deputy PM, Somkid Jatusripitak, and Pokin Polakul, a former parliamentary speaker. According to the Bangkok Post, Thaksin favours Pokin whilst others within the party favour Somkid.

The key to the potential crisis is 38 seats in Democrat territory. These were among over 200 seats where the populist Thai Rak Thai party ran unopposed due to major opposition parties boycotting the election. These constituencies are special because the sole candidate in each of them failed to get the required 20% of eligble votes. By-elections will be held on April 23, but a repeat of the void election will leave the parliament short of the 400 constituency MPs and in a situation which is not anticipated in the Thai constitution.

The soon to be ex-PM has appointed Police General Chidchai Vanasatidya, the Justice Minister, to run the country and cabinet while he takes some time off. According to the Thai News Agency, the caretaker Prime Minister has begun packing to leave Government House.

Fighting on, Thaksin Shinawatra has instructed his lawyers to file yet another defamation suit against Sondhi Limthongkul, media firebrand and one of the leaders of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD); Chatree Tharipassaro filed the suit at the Criminal Court on behalf of the caretaker PM, allegations contained within centre around remarks Sondhi made at various anti-Thaksin rallies.

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