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Govt, opposition agree to amend charter

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October 4, 2008

Thailand Political Stalemate:
Govt, opposition agree to amend charter

Senior Thai politicians agreed Friday to amend the country's contentious military-backed constitution in order to break a political deadlock, reported AFP.

New Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat held a two-hour meeting with opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, House Speaker Chai Chidchob and Senate Speaker Prasobsuk Boondet in parliament to negotiate the deal.

"The meeting aimed to solve our country's problem and head towards reconciliation," Somchai told reporters.

"This solution is the best solution and must be acceptable to people no matter if they agree or disagree. They have to listen to the majority," he added.

The current constitution was drafted by a panel named by royalist generals who staged the 2006 coup against former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Opposition Democrat Party leader Abhisit told reporters that changing the charter would allow for greater participation in the political process.

"At the meeting everybody agreed that the one way to solve the current crisis is to begin political reform by amending article 291, paving the way for more people participation," Abhisit said.

A meeting of all political party leaders with the House and Senate speakers is planned for next Monday, he added.

Anti-government demonstrators have been rallying outside government offices for months, partly in protest at planned constitutional changes.

The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) has been fighting to bring down the democratically elected government, which it accuses of being too close to Thaksin.

The demonstrators have viewed any proposed constitutional amendments as pandering to pro-Thaksin forces, but Somchai hopes new negotiations with the group will resolve the dispute.

Abhisit urged the PAD to give the process a chance.

"They (PAD) called for new politics and to get new politics we must amend the constitution therefore PAD must give a chance to everybody," he said.

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