Tue, May 23, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Thaksin plans to take back reins of Thai government

VACATION OVER With no new election date in sight, the Thai political leader said he needs to get back to work now


Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra will formally take back the reins of power today by chairing a Cabinet meeting one month after announcing he was taking a political break, a minister said.

His return could add street protests to the political chaos which has prevailed since an inconclusive April 2 snap general election was declared unlawful, anti-Thaksin campaigners said.

"The prime minister will return to the head table at the Cabinet meeting to discuss new measures to stimulate the economy," Transport Minister Pongsak Raktapongpisal told a Bangkok radio station yesterday.

Earlier in the day, government spokesman Suraphong Suebwonglee said Thaksin might stage a full comeback by asking the Cabinet to revoke a resolution that appointed Chitchai Wannasathit as caretaker prime minister.

"The current circumstances require leadership and that is a key factor in the prime minister's change of mind," Surapong told reporters.

Thaksin resumed some of his major duties yesterday, including trying to tackle a bloody Muslim insurgency in the country's southern provinces.

A return by Thaksin would renew tensions and probable street demonstrations by the People's Alliance for Democracy, a coalition that orchestrated earlier protests. Opposition political parties have not yet outlined how they would react to a comeback.

"Everyone is confused by Thaksin's action. He is playing with the country like a kid with a toy. One day he wants to be prime minister and the next he doesn't want to. I would like to warn Thaksin that the country is not a toy for him to play around with," said Chuan Leekpai, a former prime minister and chief adviser to the opposition Democrat Party.

An alliance spokesman, Suriyasai Katasila, said more street protests would be held, but only after celebrations next month marking the 60th anniversary on the throne of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Thailand has had a caretaker government and no parliament since April 2 general elections were annulled by the Constitutional Court. Thaksin stepped aside on April 4.

"There are a lot of problems. I will have to tackle them because it will be a long time until a new election is held," Thaksin told reporters over the weekend.

The embattled Election Commission yesterday proposed a further delay in plans for new elections until Oct. 29, after Muslim officials said the earlier date, Oct. 22, conflicted with the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

But neither date may hold since the commissioners are under pressure from the top courts as well as opposition parties to step down over claims that they unfairly favor Thaksin's government.

Faced with protests calling for his ouster for alleged corruption and abuse of power, Thaksin abruptly dissolved parliament in February and called snap elections on April 2, but the opposition boycotted the vote and the result was declared invalid.

Thaksin took "a break from politics" after the polls to quell the protests and appointed Chitchai to take his place.

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