14 Dec 2008

Ex-PM Thaksin asks Thai military to stay out of vote

9:55 pm on 14 December 2008

Thailand's former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has urged the military not to meddle in a parliamentary vote for a new leader next week.

Mr Thaksin was ousted by the military in a September 2006 coup and lives in exile. He is still popular in rural areas.

In a 20-minute recorded speech shown on big screens to 40,000 supporters at a Bangkok stadium on Saturday, he called for national reconciliation.

Parliament is voting for a new prime minister because Somchai Wongsawat, Mr Thaksin's brother-in-law, was forced to step down after a court found the Peoples Power Party guilty of fraud in the last election in December 2007.

The ABC reports Mr Thaksin described the court decision as a judicial coup.

A day after the ruling, the anti-Thaksin People's Alliance for Democracy ended a blockade of Bangkok's main airports, allowing a resumption of international air travel.

Thailand's parliament is expected to vote for a new leader on Monday.

The opposition Democrat Party is the favourite to emerge at the head of a weak coalition government consisting of three partners in the previous administration.

Police say they will have around 1,200 officers on duty outside parliament on Monday and they say the army will be called in if there are any clashes.