[QODLink]
Asia-Pacific
Thai PM offers to hold referendum
Critics continue to occupy Government House, dismissing move as attempt to cling to power.
Last Modified: 05 Sep 2008 05:01 GMT

Hundreds of protesters continued to occupy Government House on Friday [EPA]

Thailand's prime minister has offered to hold a referendum to end the standoff with opponents demanding that he resign.

But hundreds of protesters continued to occupy the grounds of Government House in Bangkok on Friday.

The Thai government approved plans for a national referendum on Thursday.

"The referendum is to ask public opinion and the prime minister has agreed to it as a possible solution to solve the problem," Somsak Kiatsuranont, the culture minister, said after a special cabinet meeting at the army headquarters in Bangkok.

Somsak said on Thursday that the process for drafting the referendum would start immediately.

But critics said the referendum was an attempt by Samak to cling on to power and many analysts said it would not tackle the core of the problem: the divide between the poor, rural masses and the urban middle class.

Samak to stay

In depth


Timeline: Political crisis

Profile: Who are the PAD?

On live radio on Thursday, Samak said that he would not resign nor dissolve parliament.

Abhisit Vejjajiva, the opposition Democrat party leader, told Al Jazeera it was probably "unconstitutional" to hold a referendum on a person or a group of people.

"If the PM really would like the verdict of the country, why not dissolve the house?" he said.

"We're not disputing that the house is democratically elected, but subsequent actions by this government is judged to have been wrong ... violating the constitution by the constitutional court, as well as a series of scandals.

"In any civilised democracy, the government would have shown some kind of responsibility or accountability by now."

Samak has been facing repeated calls to resign from anti-government protesters - led by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) - who have been camped out on his office lawn since last week.

He has repeatedly refused to resign, vowing not to bow to the demands of street protesters he described as a "freak cult" seeking anarchy.

He insisted that he will "stay in order to preserve democracy and to protect the monarchy".

If his opponents wanted him out, they should use the courts and not take to the streets, he said.

The referendum, if it proceeds, will be only the second ever in the kingdom. The first was in 2007, passing a new military-backed constitution formed after a coup a few months earlier.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Topics in this article
People
Featured on Al Jazeera
Muslim volunteers face questioning and threat of arrest, while aid has been disrupted or blocked, charities say.
Six months on, outrage and sorrow over the mass schoolgirl abduction has disappeared - except for families in Nigeria.
ISIL combatants seeking an 'exit strategy' from Mideast conflict need positive reinforcement back home, analysts say.
European nation hit by a wave of Islamophobia as many young fighters join ISIL in Syria and Iraq.
Featured
Lacking cohesive local ground forces to attack in tandem, coalition air strikes will have limited effect, experts say.
Hindu right-wing groups run campaign against what they say is Muslim conspiracy to convert Hindu girls into Islam.
Six months on, outrage and sorrow over the mass schoolgirl abduction has disappeared - except for families in Nigeria.
Muslim caretakers maintain three synagogues in eastern Indian city, which was once home to a thriving Jewish community.
Amid fresh ISIL gains, officials in Anbar province have urged the Iraqi government to request foreign ground troops.