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Beleaguered Thai leader announces break from public life

Written by: Staff
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Bangkok, Apr 4 (UNI) Thailand's caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whose party won the national elections for a record third time, tonight announced a break from the office for the sake of national unity.

In a telecast to the nation after a meeting with the country's revered King, Mr Thaksin said he would remain the caretaker premier till a new government is sworn in but without him as Prime Minister.

The Thai leader had made this offer in a television interview last night where he said he would agree to a suspension of his political role if opposition parties agreed to contest the next general elections and the street protests against him were called off.

Mr Thaksin's party Thai Rak Thai won 16 million of the about 28 million votes cast in the April 2 snap election but an estimated 10 million voters marked the ''no vote'' choice on the ballot paper.

Earlier today, Thailand's main opposition parties, which had boycotted the snap election, said they would cooperate with a non-partisan government not headed by Mr Thaksin in discussing constitutional reform.

''We've accepted the caretaker Prime Minister's own political break proposal and will run in general elections in the post-political reform period for the spirit of national reconciliation and unity,'' Abhisit Vejjajiva, chief of the main opposition Democrat Party announced at a press conference today after a meeting of the three main former parliamentary opposition parties.

A coalition of people's groups organising massive street protests for the past two months for Mr Thaksin's ouster today said they would end their campaign if Mr Thaksin stepped down.

Mr Thaksin's party, the sole contestant in more than half the parliament constituencies, has failed to win the mandatory minimum of 20 per cent of votes in 30 constituencies, necessitating re-elections there later this month.

Official results have so far been declared in only 247 of the 400 constituencies.

UNI XC PM HT2038

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