Thaksin steps aside as Thai prime minister | india | Hindustan Times
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Thaksin steps aside as Thai prime minister

Deputy Prime Minister Chidchai Vanasathidya, responsible for security in the Muslim south will take over as new PM.

india Updated: Apr 05, 2006 13:53 IST

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra stepped aside on Wednesday and let a deputy assume the top spot as politicians tried to find a way out of a long-running crisis.

Deputy Prime Minister Chidchai Vanasathidya, responsible for security in the Muslim south where a separatist insurgency has boiled since 2004, would take over, but Thaksin could take back the job if necessary, a government spokesman said.

"I am taking a rest for now," Thaksin, carrying a framed photograph of his family from his desk, told reporters after chairing a cabinet meeting at Government House.

Thaksin said he would remain in Thailand, probably visiting his hometown in the north. "I will be around and if I have time I will go to Chiang Mai," he said.

His opponents were still digesting his stunning promise on Tuesday evening to quit.

Many of his enemies had been dubious about whether the telecoms billionaire, whom they accuse of cronyism and abuse of power, really meant what he said.

Thaksin, winner of two previous landslide elections, called a snap poll to try to defuse mass protests clogging Bangkok and put an end to the political uncertainty hitting the economy.

While he claimed victory, the election drew an unexpectedly large protest vote and triggered a constitutional crisis when an opposition boycott left 39 empty seats in parliament, which must be filled for a new prime minister to be elected.

However, many questions remained unanswered -- in particular whether Thaksin will actually leave politics or when the new prime minister will be appointed, given that nobody knows when parliament will next meet.

Potentially solving the incomplete parliament issue, Election Commission (EC) Chairman Wassana Permlarp said the opposition could run in by-elections scheduled for April 23 in the empty seats, all but one of which are in the south, a region dominated by the opposition Democrats.

However, having earlier questioned the legality of the EC ruling, the Democrats said they would not run -- throwing the issue wide open again.

"We will wait until there are political reforms," deputy leader Chulin Laksanaviset told reporters before a meeting of the three opposition parties to discuss whether to cancel their boycott and take part in the run-offs.

Law experts such as Thammasat University's Prinya Thaewanarumitkul said the EC had the power to make the decision. "The Democrats would look very bad if they did not run," he said.

Still displaying deep suspicions of Thaksin, whose Thai Rak Thai party won the country's biggest ever majority in an election a year ago, Korn said the resignation offer might be a ploy to get parliament to open without the full quota of 500 MPs.

"He's trying to get around the election law by forcing parliament to open. I don't think anybody is in a position to force parliament to open illegally," he said.

The charter says all seats must be filled before parliament can meet, but it must meet within 30 days of an election.