Thursday, September 21, 2006

Ousted Thai PM Thaksin calls for swift elections

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the main opposition called on Thursday for swift general elections in Thailand as military coup leaders banned "political activities".

Thaksin, in a statement from London two days after he was removed in a bloodless coup, urged all parties to work for national reconciliation "for the sake of our King and country".

It said Thaksin "hopes the new regime will quickly arrange a new general election and continue to uphold the principles of democracy for the future of all Thai".

It gave no indication the billionaire telecoms tycoon, who won two landslide elections before facing an anti-corruption street campaign a year ago, was planning to return to Bangkok, despite an invitation to do so from coup leaders.

He would have to face charges already filed, including election fraud, and others may be looming.

The administration said it expected to complete a probe this month into whether Thaksin's family legitimately avoided tax on their $1.9 billion (1 billion pound) sale of the company he founded and into allegations of corruption in government spending under his rule.

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva called for elections in six months after army chief Sonthi Boonyaratglin promised a civilian prime minister in two weeks, followed by a military withdrawal, political reform in a year and then new elections.

"We are encouraged that they don't want to hold onto power and that their job is to put the country back on the democratic path," he told Reuters.

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