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Thailand: Embattled prime minister dissolves House of Representatives
[February 24, 2006]

Thailand: Embattled prime minister dissolves House of Representatives

(Thai Press Reports Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)Section: Government and Politics - Embattled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra announced this evening that he has ordered a dissolution of the Lower House, paving the way for a new election in April, the Bangkok Post reports.

His Majesty the King granted Mr Thaksin an audience this afternoon, after the premier apparently decided that a new election was the only way out of the current political tension. The election is likely to be on Sunday, April 2, or one week later on April 9.

"The house is already dissolved," he said, shortly after the audience. Mr Thaksin was relaxed as he talked to reporters and members of his Thai Rak Thai Party ahead of his formal, 8 p.m. TV announcement of his decision.

He ordered dissolution of the House after a busy Friday, during which political opponents vowed to camp out at Sanam Luang indefinitely following what they hoped would be a mass rally against Mr Thaksin.

Maj-Gen Chamlong Srimuang and supporters said earlier today they would go ahead with rally on Sunday even if Mr Thaksin dissolved the House. The aim, he said, was to force Mr Thaksin to resign.

"Even if Thaksin dissolves parliament we will continue to protest because our objective is to make him resign," said Maj-Gen Chamlong this morning.

"We will certainly rally to confirm our demand to have the prime minister resign," said Suriyasai Katasila of the People's Alliance for Democracy, the protest coordinator.

But the counter-move by the premier seemed likely to take some of the wind out of the sails of anti-government protesters, buoyed by what may have seemed like one political victory after another, even including the humiliating dismissal of Mr Thaksin's sister from Sukhothai University for cheating, disclosed earlier on Friday.

Sanan Krajornprasat, the former Demcrat and current leader of the Mahachon Party, said Mr Thaksin had made a mistake in dissolving parliament.

"He made the wrong decision, because all the protesters are calling for his resignation to make way for real political reform," said Maj-Gen Sanan. "This kind of decision means Thaksin will only have a short time to live in Thailand." For certain, though, dissolution of the House removed the possibility of a debate at a joint session of Parliament, ironically offered earlier this week by Mr Thaksin as a way to get disagreements out in the open without resorting to public protests.

At a political meeting earlier Friday attended by thousands of Thaksin supporters, the premier said his family sold its stake in Shin Corp in order to avoid conflict-of-interest accusations.

"My good and genuine intentions were distorted to create a misunderstanding among the public against me and my family," he said.

At that meeting of agricultural cooperatives, Mr Thaksin gave a strong hint of what he intended, but could not say directly until after his audience with the king.

"If you are fed up with me let me know, if you want me to continue working for you, vote for me," he said.

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