PM switches venue of a key policy speech to avoid clashing with protesters.
“We are discussing among DAAD [Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship] leaders that we will protest against the government again after the New Year holidays,” Veera Musikapong, leader of the DAAD, told reporters on Wednesday.
“Our demand is the same, a dissolution of the house.”
This week’s protests were largely peaceful, but the impasse between Bangkok’s royalist and business elite, who accused Thaksin of corruption, and rural voters who supported his populist policies, shows no sign of abating.
The demonstrations by DAAD supporters, who continue to express their anger at a court ruling which dismissed a pro-Thaksin government earlier this month, is the latest in a three-year-old political crisis that has badly damaged the Thai economy.
Abhisit is now the country’s third prime minister in four months after Somchai Wongsawat and Samak Sundaravej were both removed by the Thai courts in what Thaksin supporters called a “judicial coup”.
Somchai, Thaksin’s brother-in-law, was forced to step down as prime minister after a court found his People Power Party (PPP) guilty of fraud in the December 2007 election.
The court ordered that the PPP and two other parties in the coalition be disbanded, although all three have since regrouped under new names.
Thailand ‘nearing recession’
In his maiden policy speech, hastily relocated to the foreign ministry on Tuesday, Abhisit warned that Thailand’s political divisions could trigger a recession if the government failed to implement a $8.6bn stimulus package.
|Abhisit warned the current political crisis could badly damage the Thai economy [Reuters]|
“These conflicts are the country’s weakness, especially at a time when the world economy is entering its worst crisis in a century,” he said.
He added that slowing exports, falling tourist arrivals, weak commodity prices and delayed private investment would be major problems facing Thailand in 2009 as the global economy weakens.
Abhisit warned unemployment could double without urgent government action, as many Thai and foreign companies have already cut jobs.
His speech came as The Bank of Thailand painted a bleak picture of the economy, reporting a nearly 18 per cent fall in exports in November, the first decline since March 2002, as well as a slump in manufacturing.
It blamed the export decline on weakening global demand and a week-long siege of Bangkok’s main airport by members of the anti-Thaksin People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) which crippled cargo shipments and tourism.
But analysts doubt Abhisit’s stimulus package can spare the economy from recession, given the prospects for more political unrest in 2009 and the country’s heavy reliance on exports, which amount to more than 60 percent of GDP.