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Thai Opposition Rejects PM's Offer of National Unity Government After Elections


Thai opposition parties have rejected an offer by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, made late Sunday, to form a government of national unity, if he wins snap general elections scheduled for Sunday. The opposition parties are repeating their call for Mr. Thaksin to resign, and for the Thai king to appoint an interim government.

Mr. Thaksin offered a government of national unity to include the opposition parties boycotting the April 2 elections.

The prime minister said he would offer Cabinet posts to members of opposition parties that have been leading almost daily demonstrations demanding he resign over allegations of corruption and abuse of power.

But the opposition quickly dismissed the proposal Monday. Opposition Democrat Party spokesman, Ong-art Klampaiboon, says Mr. Thaksin's offer is not genuine.

"We, as the three former opposition parties, don't accept this idea, because we think this is not a sincere idea; it's actually the idea to buy the time for the election day. We cannot accept this idea," he said.

Also on Monday, Thai police defused a one-kilogram explosive device outside the Democrat Party headquarters.

A party spokesman said the bomb was a "political threat" and the group had requested additional security from the government.

The device, which police said could have shattered windows within a 50-meter range, was the second found in Bangkok this month.

The bomb has added to political tensions, already high after weeks of protests by groups calling for Mr. Thaksin to resign.

Anti-Thaksin demonstrations Saturday drew up to 100,000 people, and, on Sunday, 10,000 protesters marched through Bangkok to keep up pressure on the prime minister.

The opposition is calling for the king to appoint an interim Cabinet to allow for political reforms, before fresh general elections.

Mr. Thaksin has dismissed this proposal, instead calling general elections three years early, in the hope of defusing the political crisis.

But anti-Thaksin campaigners are boycotting the elections, and calling for voters to spoil their ballot papers.

Somphob Manarangsan, a professor of economics at Thaamasaat University, says the political situation may be just as uncertain after the April 2 vote as it is now.

"It's going to be very difficult to have the new government under the approval of the new parliament," he explained. "So, the confrontation, the conflict within Thai society is still very very unpredictable."

The Thai Election Commission, meeting Monday, warned again the boycott may mean insufficient candidates being elected for a full parliament, a constitutional requirement. But a senior election official said the Commission had prepared "several options" for various scenarios anticipated after the vote.

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