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Thai Senior Judges to Resolve Political Crisis After King Refuses to Intervene


Thailand's senior judges are to meet Friday to resolve a three-month political deadlock between the government of Thaksin Shinawatra and the opposition. The announcement came after the Thai king ruled out any royal intervention in the crisis and urged the courts to resolve the dispute.

Thai politicians Wednesday scrambled to adjust their strategies after Thailand's revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, in a rare political pronouncement, said he would not intercede in the three-month political confrontation by appointing a new government.

The Thai monarch, appearing on national television Tuesday evening, told senior judges to assume their responsibilities or resign. He said the constitution does not permit him to appoint a new government, and to do so would be undemocratic.

The monarch also criticized as undemocratic the April 2 elections, in which scores of ruling party candidates ran unopposed because of a boycott by the three main opposition parties.

The opposition said any election under the Thaksin Shinawatra government would not be fair. It called for the appointment by the king of a neutral government to oversee constitutional revisions and new elections.

The leader of the Democrat Party, Abhisit Vejjajiva, responded to the king's remarks Wednesday by saying his party was dropping its demand for a royally appointed government. He says that if the next step includes a new election, his party is ready to participate.

Leaders of Mr. Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party indicated they would accept any court ruling, saying all sides must work toward reconciliation.

Because of the opposition boycott, 13 parliamentary seats are still vacant despite election reruns in 40 districts last Sunday. A third round is to be held Saturday, but experts say this is still not likely to fill all the vacancies.

Thailand's 1997 constitution says the new parliament cannot convene unless all voting districts are represented, but it also says the new parliament should convene within 30 days of the election - in this case, by Tuesday.

A Supreme Court spokesman said the chief justice would meet Friday with the chiefs of the Administrative and Constitutional Courts to consider whether to nullify the April elections or allow an incomplete parliament to convene by May 2.

Prime Minister Thaksin called the elections three years early after months of demonstrations accusing his government of corruption and abuse of power, charges he denies.

Mr. Thaksin's party won 56 percent of the vote because of the boycott, but two-thirds of the voters delivered a strong protest by casting abstention ballots.

Two days after the vote, Mr. Thaksin took a leave of absence, though technically he remains as prime minister. He said he would not be a candidate for the post in the new parliament.

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