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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        7  March 2011

Thai election coming soon

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Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has indicated an early House dissolution is likely to be called later this month or early in April to clear the way for the general election, sources report.

The premier's move came as pressure continued to mount against the government, particularly regarding the rising cost of living, falling rice prices and a hike in fuel prices.

Mr. Abhisit had told key figures of the coalition parties that an early House dissolution will probably be called later this month or early next month.

The prime minister is waiting for the opposition's censure debate to end and wanted the Election Commission to complete the redrawing of election constituencies in line with the constitution amendment bill. This relates to the change to the single-seat election system which was recently endorsed by parliament, the source said.

Mr. Abhisit said in his weekly televised address yesterday that he will meet the EC next week to discuss the prospects of holding a general election once the constitution amendment bill on the election system is promulgated.

"It is now clearly stated that an election is approaching. I will consult [with the EC] as to what steps are to be taken," Mr. Abhisit said. He said dissolving the House in October, as suggested by the coalition parties, would be "too late".

The source said Mr. Abhisit wanted an early House dissolution because any further delay could have adverse effects on the country and hurt the popularity of the Democrat Party.

It could be a repeat of the political fallout that cost the Chuan Leekpai government in 2000, the source said.

Observers feel that the announcement of another set of the "populist" measures is a signal that the government is gearing up to hit the turf looking for votes.

Mr. Abhisit said he will today chair a meeting of the National Rice Policy Committee to consider increasing the guaranteed rice price under the scheme in proportion to rising production costs. He will also meet the Energy Policy Committee and other relevant agencies to discuss adjusting the amount of diesel price intervention required to ensure the State Oil Fund would have enough capital to cap the price of diesel below 30 baht a litre until the end of April, as promised by the government.

The price of diesel is now five baht lower than what drivers should be paying on the open market, Mr. Abhisit said.

The subsidy is costing the State Oil Fund 302 million baht a day and drained it of 9.02 billion since it began on December 17. At this rate, the fund will have no money left for the subsidy in 23 days, he said.

Under the amended Sections 93-98 of the constitution, the new make-up of the House of Representatives will be 375 single constituency MPs and 125 party list MPs.

However, the source said the EC may have to seek a Constitution Court ruling on whether their announcements are equivalent to the organic law.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More

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