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19 August 2009

Ruling on Thaksin petition may take time, says Thai govt

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Thailand's government said Tuesday it will take at least two months to deal with a petition seeking a royal pardon for fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, after it was forwarded by the palace, AFP reported.

More than 30,000 supporters of Thaksin, known as "Red Shirts", submitted their plea to the royal offices at Bangkok's Grand Palace on Monday, claiming they had collected at least 3.5 million signatures from around the country.

The palace issued a short statement on Tuesday saying the petition would be forwarded to the cabinet, which would then make a recommendation to the widely revered 81-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Thaksin was toppled in a coup in 2006 and fled Thailand a year ago to escape a two-year jail term for corruption, but his supporters' campaign against the current government has kept the country's political turmoil brewing.

"I have been told that in the case of a normal petition it would take 60 days to consider, but in this case there are so many supporters it will take longer," current Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told reporters.

"The details and content of the petition and the names of supporters will be taken into consideration," he said after the weekly cabinet meeting.

He urged Red Shirt leaders not to incite supporters to rally again in the hope of speeding up the process. In April the protest group disrupted a key Asian summit and was behind mass riots in Bangkok.

"The situation is very fragile. People must not be misled," he said. The premier had previously warned the Red Shirts against signing the petition, saying that only Thaksin or his family were allowed to submit it.



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