Thai Parliament Opens, Thaksin’s Sister Expected to Lead Govt.

Posted August 1st, 2011 at 10:15 am (UTC-5)
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Thailand's parliament has opened a new session during which the sister of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is expected to form a new government after five years of political turmoil.

Prime Minister-elect Yingluck Shinawatra and other lawmakers gathered at a royal building in the capital, Bangkok, for Monday's ceremonial session, led by Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn. Ms. Yingluck's Pheu Thai Party won a 265-seat majority in the 500-seat lower house in a July 3 election, defeating a government led by the rival Democrat Party.

The Crown Prince urged lawmakers of the new assembly to carry out their duties with “honesty and sincerity to achieve desired goals.” Ms. Yingluck said the ceremony marks the start of what she called the “re-installment of democracy” in Thailand.

The lower house is expected to choose a speaker on Tuesday and elect Ms. Yingluck as prime minister by early next week. Ms. Yingluck is a 44-year old newcomer to Thai politics. She has built a coalition that will command 60-percent of the chamber's seats.

Ms. Yingluck has promised the sort of populist policies that made her brother Thaksin a champion of Thailand's rural poor and working class. The Thai military ousted Thaksin in a 2006 coup for suspected corruption. He has been living in self-imposed exile in Dubai to avoid a jail term for a corruption conviction.

In her election campaign, Ms. Yingluck promised to increase the minimum wage, raise prices for rice producers and build high-speed rail lines. Some financial analysts say such policies could lead to higher inflation. The new Cabinet must present its platform to parliament for a no-confidence vote within 15 days of taking office.

After the 2006 coup, Thaksin's Red Shirt supporters staged mass protests seeking the reinstatement of his policies and helped to bring two pro-Thaksin governments to power through elections. But, Thai courts ousted both governments on technical grounds.

Thailand's previous Democrat-led government cracked down on a weeks-long Red Shirt protest movement in Bangkok last year. Violent confrontations between police and protesters killed about 90 people.