Thai coalition looking for new PM

Other News Materials 10 September 2008 16:09 (UTC +04:00)

Thailand's coalition has met to decide who should replace Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, a day after he was stripped of office by the Constitutional Court, reported BBC.

He has not been seen in public since it was ruled he broke the rules by getting paid to host a TV cookery show.

Parliament is due to elect 73-year-old Mr Samak's successor on Friday.

His People Power Party (PPP), the biggest in the six-member coalition, appeared to back away from an earlier pledge to re-nominate him as PM.

"What the party spokesman said yesterday was not the party's resolution. Our resolution is the next prime minister must come from the People Power Party," Reuters news agency quoted finance minister and PPP secretary general Surapong Suebwonglee as saying.

The second-largest of the coalition partners, the Chart Thai Party, said the PPP should not re-nominate Mr Samak.

Chart Thai's leader, Banharn Silpa-Archa - who as prime minister a decade ago presided over a currency collapse that triggered an Asian economic crisis - told Reuters he had ruled himself out.

The mood in Thailand was tense on Wednesday as the governing coalition met a day after Mr Samak became the first Thai PM to be stripped of office by a court order.

Suthep Thuagsuban, secretary-general of the Democrat Party, told AP news agency that re-appointing Mr Samak would only "fuel the fire in the country and it could lead to chaos".

For the past two weeks, the Thai government has been paralysed by thousands of protesters who have occupied its headquarters, demanding Mr Samak quit.

The demonstrators said they would continue to besiege Government House, while waiting to see who parliament selects as the new prime minister.

Bangkok dangerous?

Protesters accuse Mr Samak of being a proxy for former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in an army coup in 2006 amid accusations of corruption and abuse of power.

Deputy PPP leader Somchai Wongsawat is acting as a caretaker prime minister until the new premier is named. 

Protesters are still laying siege to Government House

But correspondents say his new role could fan Thailand's political flames as he is the brother-in-law of Mr Thaksin.

Mr Samak has not been banned from standing again for prime minister and it will be 30 days before the court's decision comes into effect.

A self-proclaimed foodie, he hosted a popular TV cooking show, Tasting and Grumbling, for seven years before becoming PM and continued to present the programme for two months after taking office.

The court ruled on Tuesday that the prime minister's television starring role had breached a constitutional bar on private employment while in office.

Thailand's political tensions boiled over in bloodshed last week, when a man was killed in clashes between pro and anti-government groups in Bangkok.