April 4, 2006

Thai PM to take “political break”

By Nopporn Wong-Anan

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra
will announce on Tuesday that he is taking a "political break"
to try to resolve a long-running crisis over opponents' demands
for his resignation, an aide said.

"He will have to bow to the current situation and take a
political break," the aide said soon after Thaksin returned
from seeing King Adulyadej Bhumibol.

Thaksin was due to speak to the nation on television at
1330 GMT (9:30 a.m. EST), his spokesman said.

Opponents demanding he resign over allegations of
corruption and abuse of power said earlier they would stop
street protests and take part in a new election if he quit

Thaksin had offered on Monday night to resign if they
called off the protests and joined a new poll he said could
take place 15 months after last Sunday's election, which was
boycotted by the main opposition.

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva agreed to run in a
new election, but only if the telecoms billionaire quit now.

"I don't see why it couldn't happen today. The PAD have
said yes, we've said yes, and it was his offer -- so he should
stick to his word."

The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), an ad-hoc
coalition behind street protests calling for Thaksin's head,
had said they would go home if he resigned.

"When the prime minister makes an official announcement to
the public that he will resign, the alliance will end its
rallies immediately," PAD spokesman Suriyasai Katasila told

Thaksin called Sunday's snap poll to defuse a street
campaign led by a former business ally, Sondhi Limthongkul, and
his political mentor, retired general Chamlong Srimuang.

Appearing on a television talk show on Monday, Thaksin did
not repeat recent calls for law and order, seen by some as a
threat to crack down on protests that took off in January after
the tax-free sale of the telecommunications empire he founded.


Thaksin, 56, said he wanted reconciliation after the poll
boycott by the Democrat, Chart Thai and Mahachon parties.

"I will do anything. I have retreated so many steps that my
back is against the wall," he said.

Thaksin said his Thai Rak Thai party (TRT) had won 16
million votes, a fall of 3 million from the landslide win in
February last year, although official returns are far from

He said 10 million voters abstained -- effectively a vote
against him -- spoiled their ballots or chose minor parties,
threatening a continuation of a crisis hurting the economy.

Thaksin proposed that a group of former judges, university
chiefs and prime ministers seek a way out of the political mess
and said he would quit if they recommended his exit.

The opposition said the proposed panel was "irrelevant" and
dismissed Thaksin's call for reconciliation.

The opposition boycott left 38 of 400 parliamentary
constituencies without a winner and no one can form a new
government until all seats in parliament are filled.

An unopposed candidate must get 20 percent of the eligible
vote to win -- and there is no guarantee by-elections for those
38 seats, most in Democrat strongholds, will achieve that --
and all seats must be filled before parliament can convene.

(Additional reporting Ed Cropley, Apornrath
Phoonphongphiphat and Chawadee Nualkhair)