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PM Somchai tight-lipped on next move

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September 19, 2008

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Pro-government group vows to force PAD out of Government House
PM Somchai tight-lipped on next move

A pro-government group is holding a rally today at a park close to the government house to mark the two-year anniversary of the coup which ejected former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra from office on September 19, promising to eject anti-government protesters from the Government House.

Thailand state news agency TNA quoted organisers of the National United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) as saying at a press conference Thursday that their rally would be held at Sanam Luang, a park which is less than a kilometre from the Government House where the anti-government People Alliance for Democracy has been camping since late August.

The UDD also announced formation of an armed security unit for their movement, and pledged to eject the anti-government Peoples' Alliance for Democracy (PAD) from Government House.

Responding to the reports, Thailand’s army chief Gen Anupong Paochinda said the planned UDD rally could be held legally. If violence does occur, he said, the military could step in if the police are unable to control the situation.

Members of the two rival groups engaged in a free-for-all bloody clash early this month leading to the outgoing government to issue an emergency decree in the capital. The decree was revoked on September 14.

In a separate report, a local daily quoted air force chief Chalit Phukpasuk as calling on Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat to revoke fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra's diplomatic passport, noting court warrants having been issued for his arrest.

The air force chief said the choice of Somchai Wongsawat as prime minister should improve the political climate, given his juridical background. It was important that he bring the anti- and pro-government elements closer together to help end the political conflict in the country.

Being Mr Thaksin's brother-in-law should not present a problem as long as Somchai can show that he is working for the good of the country, Chalit added.

Meanwhile, newly elected Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat seems to have tried to avoid making any comments so far on political issues including the formation of a new cabinet, revocation of Thaksin’s passports and the possible clash between the pro- and anti-government groups.

The only comment he made was on the credit crisis that hit stock markets across Asia, including Thailand. On Thursday, Somchai was quoted by TNA as saying that he believed that the liquidity problems due to the collapse of US investment bank Lehman Brothers and the liquidity crunch faced by the American Insurance Group (AIG) in the US would not affect Thailand and the Thai government's plan to invest on long-delayed mega-projects.

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