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Thai Opposition Parties to Boycott Snap Elections

Thailand's three major opposition parties say they will boycott snap elections due in five weeks because Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has rejected their calls for political reform. Opposition leaders made the remarks Monday, one day after tens of thousands of protesters rallied in Bangkok demanding the prime minister's resignation.

Leaders of Thailand's three main opposition parties -Democrat, Mahachon, Chart Thai - say they will not field any candidates for snap elections on April 2 because Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has turned down their proposals to amend the constitution and strengthen checks-and-balances to the political system.

Mr. Thaksin Sunday agreed to discussions but would not commit to the proposals, which, in essence, call for him to resign.

The political standoff followed a mass rally in Bangkok Sunday night. Tens of thousands of demonstrators chanted for Mr. Thaksin to get out. They dismissed as a political ploy his move Friday to dissolve parliament and call new elections in five weeks.

Mr. Thaksin has been under increasing pressure since his family sold nearly $2 billion worth of stock in the company he founded without paying any taxes. The tax-free sale was legal but angered many Thais.

The controversial sale galvanized academics, unions and civic groups, and bolstered their charges of corruption and abuse of power against the Thaksin government.

However, Mr. Thaksin, who enjoys considerable support among rural people and the poor, has vowed to fight. And over the past few days several demonstrations were also held in support of the embattled Thai leader.