Thailand: Pressure Increases for PM Somchai to Step Down

Updated On: Oct 20, 2008

Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat faces increasing pressure to step down after the top military echelon's call for his resignation. The call was made by Gen Anupong Paochinda, the army chief, during a lengthy TV interview on 16 Oct, during which he was flanked by the supreme commander, the navy commander, the air force commander and the national police chief

The General said this was necessary to take responsibility for the 7 Oct crackdown on protesters that left two dead and hundreds of injuries when police fired tear gas into large crowds of protesters.

However PM Somchai has refused, telling a press conference that he considers the statement was "merely one comment". Somchai said his administration would continue its duty for the country's benefits. Somchai also reiterated the need for his administration to stay on in order to organise three major functions over the next few months - the royal funeral of HRH Princess Galyani Vadhana from November 14 to 19, His Majesty the King's birthday on December 5, and the Asean Summit in mid-December.

Somchai also pushed for the setting up of a constitution drafting assembly to pave the way for political reform.

There have been rumours of a coup. However, when asked by a reporter if the military was attempting to force the premier out of office, Somchai said: "Nobody is doing that. That's your own perception."

Meanwhile, the premier said an independent committee set up by his government will investigate the Oct 7 crackdown and report its findings within the next 15 days.

Opposition and Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva also said the prime minister should dissolve the House in order to dissipate the growing discontent. He said the four military commanders had reflected this sentiment when they called for Somchai's resignation on Thursday.

Abhisit said he did not want the situation to spiral out of control, which might trigger a coup.  The government should not cling to power but choose an option that would allow democracy to thrive, he added.

Source:  The Nation, 18 Oct, “PM refuses to step down”, http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2008/10/18/politics/politics_30086319.ph...
Abhisit repeats PM should dissolve the House, http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2008/10/18/politics/politics_30086320.ph...

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