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Opposition leader is new Thai PM

Opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva was selected as Thailand’s third prime minister in as many months on Monday, taking control with a slender majority in parliament.

world Updated: Dec 15, 2008 23:39 IST

Opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva was selected as Thailand’s third prime minister in as many months on Monday, taking control with a slender majority in parliament and an economy teetering on the brink of recession.

In a sign of the trouble in store for the Oxford-educated economist, at least 200 supporters of the previous administration, sacked by the courts two weeks ago, blocked access to parliament and smashed windows of cars carrying MPs who had backed him.

Chanting “Abhisit, army nominee”, the red-shirted demonstrators denounced the 44-year-old as a front man for the military, which ousted elected leader Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006 and which has been accused of political meddling ever since.

Abhisit won support from 235 MPs from his Democrat party and a range of others, including a breakaway faction of the Puea Thai party that had backed Thaksin, now convicted of graft and in exile. He needed 219 votes to become prime minister.

His slender majority suggests the turmoil of the last three years will continue, especially when the economy, which depends on exports and tourism, feels the full force of the global slowdown and the recent week-long blockade of Bangkok’s airports by royalist, anti-Thaksin protesters.