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Thailand's political impasse drags on

Publication Date : 15-05-2014


For the third day running, some of Thailand's senators met yesterday to try and find a way out of the country's political crisis, even as anti-government protesters camped outside Parliament to demand they appoint a new prime minister altogether.

The erstwhile ruling Puea Thai party has accused the senators of supporting the rebels.

The caretaker government is due to meet the election commission today to discuss how to hold the poll planned for July 20.

Acting caretaker premier Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan yesterday reiterated that he was willing to hear out any party as long as it did not consider itself to be above the law.

"If you have a good proposition but it doesn't abide by the law, that's the end of it," he said.

Protesters fighting to oust the caretaker government insist that Thailand no longer has a premier since prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and nine other ministers were expelled by the Constitutional Court last week over the 2011 transfer of a senior official.

But the remaining caretaker Cabinet quickly replaced her with Niwatthamrong.

The impasse of six months is the latest episode in an eight- year-long conflict between groups aligned with and those against self-exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006 but is seen to exert undue influence over the country via his political allies and relatives like Yingluck, his sister.

Mass support from mainly rural voters in the north and north- east of the country ensures that Thaksin-linked parties like the Puea Thai are repeatedly voted into power.

But anti-government protesters, supported by royalist elites and the urban middle class, sabotaged the February 2 election and have vowed to do so again if elections are held before any reform.

Yesterday, the criminal court approved arrest warrants for 30 key protest leaders on insurrection charges.

Anti-government camps are now pinning their hopes on the Senate, which they say has the power to appoint an interim prime minister.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, in a message to the phuyai or seniors in the country on Tuesday night, said: "We still do not know what the Senate will decide. If they still attempt to take the interests of the fugitive Thaksin into account, that is the moment when they and the people stand against each other."

Suthep on Monday met senator Surachai Liengboonlertchai, who was elected Speaker during a poll last Friday that was not on the original meeting agenda.

The government is now looking into the legality of his status.

Meanwhile, Surachai has gone ahead to convene "informal" meetings with a portion of the country's 150 senators and other organisations.

"History had taught us, from 2008 to 2010, that when phuyai didn't come out and solve the problem, in the end people took matters into their own hands and killed each other," he told reporters.

"As the acting Senate Speaker... I get attacked from every direction… (so) I choose to get attacked as a person who is doing my job."


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