May 23, 2006

Thaksin takes back control of Thai government

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra
formally took back the reins of power on Tuesday, chairing a
cabinet meeting almost two months after he came under fire from
critics and announced he was taking a break.

"Certainly," Thaksin replied with a broad smile when asked
if he was back in charge of a country which has suffered
economically from the political chaos which has prevailed since
an inconclusive April 2 general election was declared unlawful.

High on the agenda was getting approval for some of the $43
billion of infrastructure projects put on hold after the
election left parliament unable to meet to choose a new prime

The first to be discussed would be a plan for new
underground railway routes for Bangkok to stimulate economic
growth which is slipping due to high oil prices and the absence
of a date for a re-run election, hobbling government decision

Thaksin met security chiefs on the rebellious Muslim south
and cabinet ministers on the economy on Monday after saying at
the weekend it was time he got back to work.

The reaction to his return from foes whose street protests
forced Thaksin into the snap April 2 election was fairly mild
ahead of celebrations next month for revered King Bhumibol
Adulyadej's 60th anniversary on the throne.

The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which led the
campaign, said it would resume the street protest, but not
until after the celebrations for the world's longest reigning

Nearly a month after the king called in top judges to sort
out the political mess, little has been achieved and no end to
the turmoil is in sight.

The Democrats, the largest of the three main opposition
parties which boycotted the April poll, called Thaksin's return
a ploy to boost his Thai Rak Thai (Thais Love Thais) party.

"When Thaksin wasn't in the driver's seat, the party's
morale was low, so he has to return with more populist projects
to boost its popularity," Democrat spokesman Satit Wongnongtaey

(Additional reporting by Trirat Puttajanyawong)