July 12, 2006

Thai PM foes call off mass rally, cite king injury

By Pracha Hariraksapitak

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Leaders of a campaign to oust Thai
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra decided on Wednesday not to
resume street protests until revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej
has recovered from a cracked rib.

The decision by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD)
to postpone Friday's planned rally followed repeated calls by a
top royal adviser not to drag the 78-year-old monarch into the
political fray stemming from April's annulled general election.

"Another mass rally will definitely be held after His
Majesty is fully recovered from his illness," said PAD leader
Sondhi Limthongkul, an ex-business associate of Thaksin who now
accuses him of corruption and abuse of power. Thaksin denies
the charges.

King Bhumibol, a constitutional monarch who celebrated 60
years on the throne a month ago, is recovering from injuries to
his shoulder and back sustained in a fall on June 24, according
to a palace statement.

Although officially above politics, he has used his
influence on several occasions to end bloodshed or break
political deadlocks, leading the PAD to try to rally people to
its cause by suggesting Thaksin is a rival to the monarch.

Thaksin fueled the controversy last week by alleging that
"charismatic individuals" were trying to oust him by
"unconstitutional means" -- a remark Thai media and analysts
took as a thinly veiled attack on top royal adviser Prem

"That Thaksin declared an unspoken war with Prem meant that
he was audaciously taking on no less than Thailand's widely
revered monarch," said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political
scientist at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University.

Despite uproar from his opponents, Thaksin has refused to
name the "charismatic individuals."

However, the PAD was dealt a blow on Monday when Sumet
Tantivejkul, head of the royally sponsored Chaipattana
Foundation, said in a speech to new barrister graduates the
king must not become embroiled in the political game.

"No one can use the monarchy as a tool to support their
cause," he said.

The king's latest intervention came in April when he
summoned top judges to tell them to sort out the mess left by
the inconclusive snap election, which Thaksin called to try to
end weeks of Sondhi-led street protests.

Thaksin stepped aside after the election to defuse
tensions, but he returned two months later after it became
clear parliament could not sit to choose a new prime minister.

Since the king's intervention, the courts have made little
progress in resolving the crisis and the prospect of a
prolonged caretaker administration unable to make major policy
decisions has started to unnerve foreign investors and raise
fears about economic growth.