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NEWS UPDATES 29 May 2010

Thai PM says polls in November unlikely

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Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said holding a November election as he proposed this month will be more difficult after quelling violent protests in Bangkok last week, according to Bloomberg News.

“It’s a lot more difficult now to have elections before the end of the year because the November date was set with the protesters joining in the plan right from the start,” Abhisit told foreign reporters today in Bangkok. “Because that hasn’t happened, it’s going to take a while longer to establish the right kind of environment.”

Thai authorities have maintained a state of emergency in the capital and other parts of the country for 53 days. Today they lifted a curfew imposed on May 19, when a military assault on anti-government protesters seeking an immediate election ended two months of rallies and sparked arson attacks.

Abhisit is aiming to restore international confidence in Thailand after clashes between troops and protesters, some armed with guns and grenades, left at least 85 people dead. Losses from tourism revenue and investments because of the rallies may shave about two percentage points from economic growth this year, Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij said May 24.

As part of a five-point reconciliation plan, the government plans to set up a “non-political body” to propose changes to a constitution written after the army ousted ex-leader Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006, Abhisit said. That would include determining whether to amend a clause used to disband the pro-Thaksin ruling party in December 2008, allowing Abhisit to win a parliamentary vote to become prime minister later that month.

“It is an issue that will be very controversial, very divisive and it needs a neutral panel to seek a way out,” said Abhisit, whose ruling Democrat party was recommended for dissolution last month by the Election Commission after it investigated claims of illegal campaign contributions. The prime minister’s term expires at the end of next year.

Southeast Asia’s biggest economy after Indonesia expanded at the fastest pace since 1995 last quarter, driven by overseas sales. Thailand’s exports rose for the sixth consecutive month in April on foreign demand for electronics and automobiles.

The government plans to spend about a third of its 2.07 trillion-baht ($63.6 billion) budget next year on measures to narrow a divide between rich and poor, Abhisit said May 26. The plan to increase spending by 22 percent will widen the budget deficit to 420 billion baht in the fiscal year starting October, more than double the size of this year’s projected deficit.


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