Beleaguered Thai government to hold referendum on future

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Bangkok, Sep 4 (UNI) Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej's Cabinet today decided to seek a popular vote on its continued stay in office after the imposition of an emergency in the national capital failed to end a standoff with the anti-government protesters demanding his resignation.

The Cabinet met after the Prime Minister in an address to the nation this morning rejected the call by the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) for him to resign.

Government spokesman Wichienchote Sukchoterat said the Cabinet has approved in principle the holding of a national referendum on the PAD's demand.

The referendum would be officially announced after the upper house of Parliament approves draft legislation on the referendum, he added.

The main opposition Democrat Party, however, criticised the referendum plan and suggested instead dissolution of Parliament and fresh elections.

Thousands of PAD supporters remained on the premises of the Prime Minister's office for the ninth successive day today defying a ban on public gatherings of more than five people.

The army, which is in charge of enforcing the state of emergency is said to be reluctant to act against the PAD protesters amidst growing speculation that the powerful army chief wants the prime minister to quit.

The PAD accuses Mr Samak of being a proxy for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra who is seeking political asylum in Britain.

Mr Thaksin who won three successive terms to office on the back of populist policies that endeared him to Thailand's rural majority, was ousted by a section of the armed forces two years ago, following mass street protests in Bangkok organised by the PAD.

UNI XC RJ KN1636

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