03/16/2006, 00.00
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Thai PM resists calls for his resignation

by Weena Kowitwanij
Thaksin Shinawatra says street pressures won't force him out of office. King makes public plea to political groups to find solution. Election date might be postponed because of lack of candidates.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra shows no sign that he is going to resign, but the April 2 elections might be delayed.

Despite mass protests in the last few weeks calling for his resignation, the prime minister warned yesterday that he won't be "an example of a PM that quits because of mass pressure".

"We must play by the rules," he said whilst campaigning in the country's north-west. Here, amongst farmers and the poorest social classes, Thaksin has found a more favourable response.

In Bangkok instead, the opposition is still demonstrating peacefully. Yesterday some 300,000 people took to the streets, including members of the middle class and professionals like doctors and nurses from the Ramathibodi Government Hospital led by Dr Yaowanuj Kongdan.

"Thaksin Shinawatra is an enterprising man who has been behind many projects, but that is not good enough to be good leader. Our society needs an honest and ethical leader who places the country's needs before his own," Dr Kongdan told AsiaNews.

The anti-Thaksin protest movement burst onto the Thai political scene after the sell-off of his family's stake in Shin Corp—a telecommunications giant Thaksin founded before entering into politics—to Temasek Holdings, the Singapore's government investment agency.

The opposition accuses him of using his position as PM to gain "huge advantages" from that sale and of privatising state corporations so as to sell stakes in them as part of the overall transaction.

Political tensions are negatively affecting the economy as investors and consumers lose confidence so much so that in a rare public appeal, King Bhumipol Adulyadej has urged all political groups to find a solution.

Moreover, the Elections Commission is warning that the April 2 elections might not go ahead as planned. Since the three opposition parties with seats in parliament announced they are going to boycott the elections, there are not enough registered candidates as required by the constitution. In two thirds of all constituencies, the prime minister's party is in fact running without competition, and applications by 320 candidates have been rejected whilst another 84 are facing the same fate. 

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