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Thailand political crisis:PM Samak resorts to referendum

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Thailand political crisis:
PM Samak resorts to referendum
Opposition sees it as unconstitutional

Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and his beleaguered government’s decision to hold a national referendum to resolve the ongoing political crisis finds little support as it is seen as unconstitutional and as a means to buy time.

Samak, addressing the public on national radio Thursday afternoon, said the Cabinet agreed in principle to hold a referendum which will let people decide if they support PAD movement or the government.

"This is the best way to solve this problem," Samak said. "I will not resign, I have to maintain democracy. I did nothing wrong over the seven months I have been in office," he said in his earlier radio address.

The opposition Democrat party, some senators and the anti-government protesters opposed the idea saying that Samak's government just wanted to buy time and the move might violate the Constitution.

Sathit Wongnongtoey, the opposition Democrat party chief whip, disagreed with the move to hold a referendum, arguing any referendum to specific individuals or groups ran counter to Article 165 of the Constitution.

He suggested that the best way to defuse the current political crisis was to dissolve the House and hold a general election.

Senate Speaker Prasobsook Boondech said he opposed a referendum, saying it would be held too late. The Senate will hold its first reading today on the referendum bill, and the entire process will take at least a month, he said.

Samak’s address came two days after he imposed a state of emergency in the Thai capital in the wake of clashes between pro-government and antigovernment protesters that left one person dead and 45 wounded.

Attempts to resolve the crisis in parliament continued Thursday after Sunday's failure of a joint session of parliament to find a way out.

House of Representatives Speaker Chai Chidchob said he would hold discussions Friday with leaders and representatives from political parties to set a date for another joint session of parliament.

Meanwhile, local news reports dais students from 21 institutes and two schools will join the anti-government protesters - the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD).

The student group, which call themselves Young PAD, asked the government to lift the state of emergency in Bangkok and withdraw charges against the PAD leaders.

The PAD rally at Government House has attracted a growing number of students from universities including Thammasat, Chulalongkorn, Hua Chiew, Thai Chamber of Commerce, Prasarnmitr and the Rajabhat Institutes.

Even more students are likely join the anti-government protests as two students from the Ramkhamhaeng University were wounded by a drive-by shooter who fired into a protesting group of about 100 students on Thursday night, as they were about to march to Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej’s residence on the eastern outskirts of the capital.

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