Thailand's ruling party meets over cabinet posts


Factions in Thailand's ruling People Power Party (PPP) met separately today to haggle for cabinet posts ahead of a parliamentary vote for a brother-in-law of ousted leader Thaksin Shinawatra to be the new prime minister.

One rebel group backed off an earlier threat to break away from the PPP, a successor to Mr Thaksin's banned Thai Rak Thai party, saying it would support Somchai Wongsawat as prime minister if a majority of the party wanted it.

"We will respect the outcome of the party meeting this afternoon," said Boonjong Wongtrairat, whose faction commands a third of the PPP's 223 MPs.

His group walked out of a meeting on Monday at which the PPP board anointed Somchai, who has been acting prime minister since a court sacked Samak Sundaravej last week for hosting TV cooking shows while in office.

Some MPs fear Mr Somchai's links to Mr Thaksin, who was removed in a 2006 coup, will only exacerbate tensions with street protesters arguing that the PPP-led coalition is merely a Thaksin puppet.

Mr Somchai, married to one of Thaksin's sisters, brushed aside calls for a snap election if the factions could not agree on a nomination.

"Everything will be sorted out today," he told reporters before chairing a cabinet meeting.

Parliament is due to vote on his nomination on Wednesday, although, as with an abortive vote for Samak on Friday following approval by the party, his formal accession is far from assured.

The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which has occupied the prime minister's official compound for the past three weeks in a bid to unseat the PPP, said it had no doubts that Mr Thaksin would be pulling the strings from London, where he is in exile.

The Supreme Court issued a second arrest warrant for Mr Thaksin today after he failed to appear at the start of a trial investigating soft government loans to the military regime in neighbouring Burma (Myanmar) while he was in office.

The court suspended the case until Mr Thaksin returned.

Another warrant was issued against him and his wife when they failed to return from Beijing last month for another graft trial.