Thailand in deep political crisis

But more than two months later, it appears the royal magic hasn't worked this time.

In fact, the impasse has become more inflamed in recent days as some observers accuse embattled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of criticizing the king or his top adviser - an unprecedented act in modern Thai history.

Adding to the murk, hopes for stabilizing elections in October may have been quashed by the attorney general's recent recommendation the Constitutional Court dissolve both Thaksin's party and the main opposition group for violations during April elections.

The crisis erupted in February when Thaksin dissolved Parliament and called the snap April poll in an effort to defuse street protests against him following allegations his family had avoided paying tax on the nearly US$2 billion ( Ђ 1.57 billion) sale of a telecommunications company, the AP reports.

Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party won, but a boycott by the main Democrat and other opposition parties left Thaksin's claim to a fresh mandate in tatters and prevented the formation of a new government.

The advice of the 78-year-old king, who had successfully ended bloody confrontations in 1973 and 1992, prompted the Constitutional Court to annul the inconclusive election and ask the electoral commissioners, deemed to favor the ruling party, to resign.

But three of the commissioners have refused to step down and instead set a new election date of Oct. 15. The election can't go ahead without the king's endorsement, which he has until Aug. 24 to give.

Thaksin, who took a break from politics shortly after the election, resumed working in May.

Some say a sign of his self-confidence - critics call it arrogance - is a willingness to challenge the Palace.

Adding fuel to an already volatile situation, Thaksin charged that a "charismatic person" had wielded "extraconstitutional force" to interfere in politics. He didn't name the person, but his words were widely seen as aimed at the king or at least his senior adviser, former Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda.

The remarks followed celebrations of Bhumibol's 60th anniversary on the throne, when millions of Thais publicly displayed their loyalty for a constitutional monarch some regard as almost divine.

Opponents challenged Thaksin to come clean about who he was talking about.

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