Thailand’s PM returns to Bangkok

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra returned in defiant mood from the provincial campaign trail on Thursday to protesters massed outside his office and doubts that his April 2 snap election could go ahead.

Thaksin confessed he was nervous about the impact of the political crisis on the economy as more and more businessmen and analysts express concerns about the long-term impact of a campaign to oust him.

But, after switching a meeting from his office rather than face protesters baying for his head, he scotched the idea that he might step aside to break the impasse and ease fears of violence in a country with a long and recent history of military coups.

"Everybody must be responsible. They must play by existing rules otherwise people who respect the rules will have to yield to those who don't follow the rules," he told reporters.

Asked if he had thought about stepping aside temporarily -- an idea that a day earlier he had labelled a "good suggestion" -- he said in English: "I have not considered yet".

Wildly popular in the countryside, where 70 percent of Thailand's 63 million people live, Thaksin has billed April's vote as a referendum on his leadership in the face of the campaign by Bangkok's middle classes to kick him out.

He had been expected to win another thumping majority in two weeks' time and any postponement would deal him a major blow.

Election Commission Chairman Wassana Permlap said on Wednesday that the poll, which is being boycotted by the three main opposition parties, could not produce the full house of 500 MPs required by the constitution to form a new government, reports Reuters.


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