Thais to vote on dissolving parliament


THAILAND:IN A fresh effort to defuse Thailand's political crisis, its cabinet agreed yesterday to hold a referendum hours after the beleaguered prime minister Samak Sundaravej again vowed, in a national radio address, that he would not resign.

A referendum could be held within 30 days of the senate passing an enabling law. Yesterday Somsak Kietsuranond, the culture minister, confirmed the government had agreed in principle on the vote.

A cabinet minister said the people would be asked whether the government should step down or dissolve parliament. But in a 50-minute address to the nation, Mr Samak dashed expectations of his resignation, saying he had a mandate to govern. "I will not abandon the ship, and I will take responsibility for the crew on board. I can tell you I will not quit. I will not dissolve parliament. I will stay to protect democracy."

Protesters who have been occupying his office grounds since August 26th jeered at the speech and resolved to stay until he met their demand to quit.

"As long as he insists on staying on, we will not go anywhere," said Sondhi Limthongkul, a People's Alliance for Democracy leader.

The referendum move appears to be a bid by Mr Samak to regain the initiative. Clashes between the rival groups left one man dead and 43 injured on Tuesday, and Mr Samak declared emergency rule in Bangkok. However, the army refused to forcibly evict the government house protesters.

Mr Samak described the People's Alliance for Democracy as a "lawless mob" and said it was time for Thais to decide which side they were on in the crisis that has pitted urban elite anti-government demonstrators against the rural poor. - (Guardian service)