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Anti-Thaksin movement - from the street to the court and back to the street?

Updated On: Feb 17, 2006

It seems that PM Thaksin is throwing caution to the wind by giving Thais a hard-line choice -“either with him or against him”.

Thaksin's threat to dissolve the House of Representatives has caused anger. “If a small number of us fail to toe the line, I'm sure the administration will be able to go ahead with no problems. But if a lot of us fail to [support the government], I will have to dissolve the House,” he said recently.

Prommin Lertsuridej, the PM's secretary-general, said that Thaksin was offering the MPs an opportunity to defect. However, Thaksin's sister MP Yaowapa Wongsawat, a deputy party leader and adviser to the premier, denied it was a threat to dissolve the Lower House, saying he was merely explaining to the MPs what could possibly happen given the situation now. Pimuk Simaroj, a Thai Rak Thai deputy spokesman also said the premier had no intention of dissolving the House as he had announced before that he had a mandate from voters to serve four full years.

Now, Thaksin's unorthodox methods in proposing a referendum on constitutional change are dubious. The original plan was to have it on April 19 (the same day as the Senate election) but the constitutional requirement of a 90-day lead-up to a referendum would not be met. The government is now said to be coming up with another method of gathering public opinion, thus bypassing complex constitutional strictures. Mr Thaksin has already invited university rectors to Government House to talk about charter amendments.

The rector of ThammasatUniversity criticized Thaksin's idea to hold simultaneous referendum and senatorial elections as confusing. Besides, a referendum and a public hearing “must contain clear questions and follow parliamentary procedures.”

A recent Abac poll found 61% of respondents supported amending the constitution while 25% were opposed. 92% wanted the public to have a say in the charter amendments. A majority, 56%, want the prime minister to serve no more than two consecutive terms. About 31.5% thought the amended charter should allow non-politicians to become prime minister, but 24% disagreed.

Even with such mounting challenges, Thaksin appeared unfazed. The fact that the Thai Constitutional Courtheard a petition by a group of senators but ultimately turned down their petition to launch an inquiry of the Prime Minister was another victory for the latter.

The Constitutional Court's decision was booed by a small group of anti-government demonstrators but gave a quick boost to the nervous stock market in Thailand. However, more protest are also anticipated on the street in coming days in response to the Court's decision.

Sources:

PM could stay, but at what price to society? The Nation, 14 February 2006

Govt drops idea for a referendum Bangkok Post, 15 February 2006

Confusion over PM's remarks The Nation, 16 February 2006

PM'S CRISIS The Nation, 15 February 2006

PM's term should be limited: Survey The Nation, 15 February 2006

56% say two terms enough: Abac The Nation, 15 February 2006

Constitution Court gets another chance The Nation, 15 February 2006

Thaksin, senators await court ruling Bangkok Post, 15 February 2006

Anti-PM sentiment gathering force Bangkok Post, 16 February 2006

Spotlight again on charter court Bangkok Post, 16 February 2006

Rectors invited to charter change talks Bangkok Post, 16 February 2006

Court 'obligated' to accept petition Bangkok Post, 16 February 2006

The move for a second political reform Bangkok Post, 16 February 2006

Court is obligated to hear case: Senators The Nation, 16 February 2006

Referendum `would only confuse people' The Nation, 16 February 2006

Thai court rejects call to investigate PM Thaksin, The Star, 16 February 2006