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Thailand's Elected Parliament Reconvenes For First Time Since Coup


Thailand has an elected parliament this week for the first time since 2006, the year former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was deposed in a military coup. The new parliament includes many Thaksin allies, indicating the exiled leader could be poised for a comeback. VOA's Luis Ramirez reports from Bangkok.

The new session of parliament opened in a ceremony Monday with the kingdom's Crown Prince presiding.

It is the first time that Thailand has had an elected parliament since February 2006, when then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra dissolved it as protests escalated calling for his ouster. He was deposed in a military coup in September of that year.

Mr. Thaksin is in exile. His opponents in the military-appointed interim government ordered his Thai Rak Thai Party disbanded and he was banned from politics.

However, his allies regrouped under the People Power Party and scored a victory in post-coup elections last month. On Saturday they unveiled a six-party coalition government that controls more than 300 of the lower house's 480 seats.

Analysts say Thailand has averted further turmoil that threatened to erupt as those who wanted to keep Mr. Thaksin out of Thai politics faced off with his allies who are determined to bring the former prime minister back.

Mr. Thaksin's opponents have lost all previous bids to finish him off politically. But Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a politics professor at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, says he believes Mr. Thaksin's rivals could resort to other forceful measures again to try to keep him out of power.

"It depends on how he plays the winning hand," Thitinan said. "If he can be magnanimous and modest, he can be patient and bide his time, then we can reach some kind of settlement and reconciliation. But if he presses hard and corners his opponents, they may overreact. The establishment has shown that it has been willing to dissolve Thai Rak Thai the first time, and I think that it would not be reluctant to do it again if Mr. Thaksin corners them".

The military and other opponents accuse Mr. Thaksin of corruption and abuse of power. His support comes mainly from the poor, who are drawn by his populist agenda.

Selection of a new prime minister is scheduled for Friday. The post is expected to go to the PPP's Samak Sundaravej - a 72-year-old former Bangkok governor and TV cooking show host.

One of the first items on the new government's agenda is restarting the Thai economy, which slumped following the coup. The PPP's campaign promises included removing capital controls that were imposed in late 2006.

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