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Thaksin takes back reins of power in Thailand

The Prime Minister chaired a cabinet meeting almost two months after he came under fire from critics.

india Updated: May 23, 2006 13:30 IST

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 minister.

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-making.

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 monarch.

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 said.

First Published: May 23, 2006 12:08 IST