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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thai army calls for new elections

The head of Thailand's powerful army has asked the government to dissolve parliament and call new elections.

Gen Anupong Paochinda denied the move amounted to a coup, and also called on anti-government protesters to withdraw from Bangkok's international airport.

Members of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) took over the airport on Tuesday, after months of protests.

It was the PAD's most dramatic move so far after months of calling for the government to resign.

It is unclear where Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, who was due to return to Thailand on Wednesday from an Asia-Pacific summit in Peru, now is.

However, Gen Anupong said the government was still in control.

"This is not a coup," he told a news conference.

"The government still has full authority. These points are the way to solve the problem which has plunged the country into a deep crisis," Gen Anupong said.

The protesters, who have also been occupying a government compound in the capital, claim that the government is corrupt and hostile to the monarchy.

They also accused it of being a proxy for former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military 2006 coup, but who critics say is still very influential.

The PAD is a loose grouping of royalists, businessmen and the urban middle-class opposed to Mr Thaksin.

The BBC's Jonathan Head, in Bangkok, says that the government had appeared to have adopted a strategy of allowing the PAD to attack government buildings while avoiding clashes, in the hope that it could wear the protesters down.

Source: BBC - Thai army calls for new elections

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