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Negotiations between government and protesters likely

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September 21, 2008

Thailand Political Stalemate:
Negotiations between government and protesters likely   

Talks between the government and the protesters led by People Alliance for Democracy (PAD) is expected to start once the new Cabinet is formed, reported local media.

Somchai Wongsawat, elected prime minister in a parliamentary vote last Wednesday, has initiated talks with the protest group occupying the prime minister's office compound to ease the political standoff that has roiled the country for weeks.

Negotiations could begin as soon as a new government is formed but the date and major issues up for discussion have not yet been fixed, state news agency TNA quoted Maj-Gen Chamlong Srimuang, one of the protest leaders telling a press conference Saturday.

Shortly after his electionas the country’s 26th prime minister, Somchai reportedly talked to Sondhi Limthongkul, another key leader of PAD, suggesting negotiations The PAD, however. insists that its demands be met, saying that it will continue occupying the Government House until the government led by People Power Party, which, it says, is being controlled by ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, resigns.

The group has also warned the PPP government not to amend the 2007 Constitution. It was the attempt by ousted prime minister Samak Sundaravej and the PPP to rewrite certain clauses in the charter that had fuelled PAD protests.

The bid to rewrite the charter came after a top executive of PPP was charged by the election commission of buying votes in the December polls and later found guilty of committing electoral fraud and banned from politics for five years.

Under article 237 of the Thai constitution, the entire party will be dissolved for an act of fraud committed by one member.

So far, Prime Minister Somchai has not given details of his dialogue initiative rather than saying his administration was "in the process of negotiating" with the alliance's leaders.

While Somchai’s is putting together his Cabinet, there have been local media reports that deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, had a hand in picking cabinet ministers.

Somchai, who is Thaksin’s brother-in-law, denied it, saying that he was the prime minister and he was responsible for selecting the ministers. “Nobody has a hand in it," he said.

The speculation of Thaksin’s involvement started when Yongyuth Tiyapairat, the banned deputy leader of PPP, recently flew to London where Thaksin has been in exile since he fled Thailand late August.

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