[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
Swathes of the British electorate continue to show discontent with all things European, including immigration.
Astronomers have captured images of primordial galaxies that helped light up the cosmos after the Big Bang.
Critics assail British photographer's portrayal of indigenous people, but he says he's highlighting their plight.
As Western stars re-release 1980s charity hit, many Africans say it's a demeaning relic that can do more harm than good.
Featured
No one convicted after 58 people gunned down in cold blood in 2009 in the country's worst political mass killing.
While hosting the World Internet Conference, China tries Tiananmen activist for leaking 'state secrets' to US website.
Once staunchly anti-immigrant, some observers say the conservative US state could lead the way in documenting migrants.
NGOs say women without formal documentation are being imprisoned after giving birth in Malaysia.
Public stripping and assault of woman and rival protests thereafter highlight Kenya's gender-relations divide.