May 16, 2006

Thai courts step up pressure to end political crisis

By Nopporn Wong-Anan

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's top courts, given the
arduous job of ending a complex political and constitutional
crisis, were expected to pile more pressure on election
commissioners to quit on Tuesday.

One of the four commissioners who organised a snap April 2
election later ruled unlawful was reported to be ready to
resign, but, like most other elements of this crisis, nothing
was certain.

Supreme Court spokesman Wirat Chinwinigkul said the hope
was that the commissioners, accused of bias toward Prime
Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's Thai Rak Thai (Thais Love Thais)
party, would resign to allow a revamped body to supervise a
re-run of the abortive election.

But the heads of the Supreme, Administrative and
Constitutional Courts, due to meet at 0600 GMT, would have to
try to figure out what to do if the commissioners hung on, he

"We hope the EC will sacrifice," he told a Bangkok radio
station. But, Wirat added: "We will broadly discuss what the
three courts will have to do if the EC won't quit."

It will be the third meeting of the top judges since
revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, due to celebrate 60 years on
the throne in June, summoned them to his seaside palace late
last month and told them to sort out the mess.

However, since the Constitutional Court ruled the April 2
election unlawful a week ago, little has been resolved,
although there were expectations that the billionaire Thaksin
would clarify his intentions.

Thaksin, who called the April poll to counter a street
campaign against him by foes accusing him of corruption and
abuse of power, said after the voting he would not be a
candidate for the prime minister's job when parliament met.

However, a boycott of the election by the three main
opposition parties left seats unfilled and the legislature
unable to meet to elect a new prime minister to form a

Thaksin handed over day-to-day power to a deputy and
frequently told the pack of journalists following him he was
just another unemployed man.

However, his party spread the word later that a decision
the election was unlawful might well release him from his
promise not to seek to become prime minister again, threatening
a resumption of the suspended street campaign.

A Thai Rak Thai meeting on Tuesday was expected to decide
on its candidate, with nervous financial markets hoping
Commerce Minister Somkid Jatusripitak would be the man.

Whatever the decision, Thaksin is likely to remain prime
minister until the next election.

On Monday, the Election Commission said an election re-run
might have to wait until October to allow politicians the
constitutionally required 90 days to switch parties.