04/05/2006, 00.00
THAILAND
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Opposition wants Thaksin to step aside . . . for good

by Weena Kowitwanij
PM's resignation is not enough. Three opposition parties want Thaksin to quit party leadership. A leader of the People's Alliance for Democracy calls for light to be shed on how public companies were managed under the Thaksin administration. It also calls for a probe into election.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Thailand's three opposition parties said they won't run candidates in the 38 by-elections that must be held where minimum turnout quota was not met unless outgoing Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra quits as leader of his party, this according to Abhisit Vejjajiva, head of the Democrat Party, after reaching an agreement with the Mahachon Party and the Chart Thai Party. In his view, if Thaksin stayed on as Thai Rak Thai Party leader, the current system would continue and the political situation would not change.

Yesterday Thaksin announced that he would not become Prime Minister despite the 16 million ballots cast for his party in Sunday's election. He did however say, after a meeting with King Bhumibol Adulyadej, that he would remain at the helm of his party.

"I need to apologise to these 16 million people who voted for me in the hope that I would be the prime minister again," Thaksin said yesterday. "This is because this year is very auspicious for the Thai people as His Majesty the King is to celebrate the 60th anniversary of his accession to the throne. [. . .] I need to remain the caretaker prime minister and will continue to perform my duties as [. . .] Thai Rak Thai leader to push forward all the policies that I have promised to you [. . .] all the policies, including the 30-baht (about US$ 0.75) medical charge per visit, the anti-drug addiction campaign and anti-poverty schemes".

"As for many things that I have been accused of, this prime minister has never thought of doing anything wrong or evil to the country," he said.

Finally, he urged the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) and opposition parties to work with him to further political reforms.

PAD leader Sondhi Limthongkul spoke about his meeting with Thaksin next Friday, saying that he intends to ask for explanations about the way the elections were conducted because of some murky aspects. He also said he wants Thaksin to step down as caretaker Prime Minister before April 30; otherwise, protests against him will resume.

Sondhi stressed the PM's resignation does not remove the clouds over his moral and ethical conduct. Not only do many still question his political projects but they especially want to know what he did with public companies.

In Sunday's election some 28 million Thais were eligible to vote. Of these, 16 million cast their ballot for Thai Rak Thai, whilst 10 million rejected Thaksin, mostly in the capital Bangkok and the south. The remaining ballots were spoiled. "Overall," Sondhi noted, "some 40 per cent of the electorate was against Thaksin. This is unprecedented in the history of the country."

In 38 ridings voters will be asked to vote again after the turnout fell short of the 20 per cent mark required by law.

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