Thai prime minister withdraws law suits against top critic

Heeding the advice of Thailand's revered king, the country's prime minister has told his lawyers to withdraw lawsuits against his staunchest critic that have heightened political tensions, officials said Tuesday. Prime Minster Thaksin Shinawatra had filed a half dozen criminal and civil lawsuits against Sondhi Limthongkul, a media mogul who has attracted thousands to weekly rallies at which he has denounced Thaksin as a corrupt, power-hungry autocrat.

Political tensions rose higher when some senior military officers attempted to intimidate Sondhi, warning him to stop mentioning King Bhumibol Adulyadej in his war of words with Thaksin. Sondhi had accused Thaksin of attempting to usurp the king's privileges.

During his 78th birthday speech on Monday, the king indirectly advised Thaksin not to overreact in countering his critics and listen too much to the advice of lawyers.

"My legal team has met with Prime Minister Thaksin this morning and the prime minister is forgiving everyone in order to create conciliation by withdrawing all the lawsuits against Sondhi," Thana Benjathikul, chief of Thaksin's legal team, told reporters.

"I will go to court and withdraw the suits this afternoon," Thana said.

Sondhi welcomed Thaksin's move but said a rally scheduled for Friday will be held as planned.

Government spokesman Suraphong Suebwonglee said that Thaksin was heeding the king's advice. "The government will fully listen to the king's advice, and from now on this government will accept both praise and criticism from the public and opposition," Suraphong said. Thaksin has garnered a reputation for intolerance of criticism and has attempted to muzzle Thailand's once vibrant press through law suits, closure of radio and television programs and other forms of pressure, reports the AP. I.L.

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