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Step down for sake of the country, senators urge govt

Anti-government protesters gather outside the Parliament compound yesterday, waiting for a decision by senators about a way out of the ongoing political deadlock.

Anti-government protesters gather outside the Parliament compound yesterday, waiting for a decision by senators about a way out of the ongoing political deadlock.

Niwattumrong

Niwattumrong

Senate ready to appoint new premier if necessary, Surachai says; PDRC disappointed

In a move likely to deepen the political crisis, the Senate yesterday called on the caretaker government to consider resigning and pave the way for a new administration with full authority that is fully functional.

However, the senators failed to meet the demands made by anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) for the appointment of a new unelected prime minister.

Following an informal meeting with senators, acting Senate Speaker Surachai Liengboonlertchai yesterday put forward a three-point demand on behalf of the Senate - the only remaining legislative institution since the House was dissolved in December.

First, he said, a prime minister and a Cabinet with full authority must be put in place to solve the crisis and work on bringing back peace and reconciliation.

The Senate also wants the caretaker government and all political parties to help in the effort to find a way out for the country, he said.

While thirdly, if necessary, the Senate may convene a special meeting, as allowed by its regulations, to acquire a prime minister in line with the existing laws, political customs and the Constitution.

"We hope to get full cooperation from the government and all sectors in order to pull through the crisis. We hope all parties involved will sacrifice and change their views for the country's sake," Surachai said yesterday.

He added that he would meet the government, especially acting Premier Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan, on Monday to discuss solutions for the country.

Niwattumrong had said earlier yesterday that he was too busy to meet the senators today to discuss the political stalemate as requested by the Upper House. He is apparently scheduled to go on working trips over the weekend to Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai.

"If the government is aware that it has limited power, which would have an adverse impact on how it runs the country, then I believe they can make their judgement," Surachai said. "We are not focusing on appointing a new prime minister or an interim Cabinet under Article 7 of the Constitution."

There have been calls for the government to resign to pave the way for a fully functional administration.

Senator Somchai Sawaengkarn said yesterday that Surachai, as acting Senate speaker, was empowered to convene a special Senate meeting to appoint a prime minister.

He said he was convinced that in three days it would be clear whether the Senate will get cooperation.

More than 70 senators took part in the meeting.

After listening to the first part of Surachai's statement, PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban said he was disappointed with the Senate. He told the protesters, who had gathered to pressure the Senate, to leave Parliament and return to their rally on Rajdamnoen Road.

Suthep said the PDRC would find a way on its own and would no longer place its hopes on politicians.

"Brothers and sisters please calm down. Please do not get angry or sorry. We are going back to our stage, let's think our own way, let's go," Suthep said.

Before leaving, some protesters showed anger and threw bottles and garbage into the Parliament compound, with many shouting "Slave!"

In addition, Suthep called PDRC allies from all over the country to meet this afternoon at Government House to discuss their next move. He had earlier threatened to take matters into his own hands if the Senate failed to appoint a new prime minister by yesterday.

A large group of anti-government protesters affiliated with the PDRC gathered outside the Parliament compound while the senators met.

Jatuporn Prompan, chairman of the pro-government United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, said it was clear Surachai had deflated Suthep's hopes. He expected Suthep to show anger to the highest level over the weekend. Meanwhile, it was not clear what Army Chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha planned to do next. So, he called for more red shirts to come to support the UDD from today to Monday.

UDD secretary-general Nuttawut Saikuar said Suthep's last resort would be to instigate a situation so the military come out and stage a coup. In case of crisis, the red shirts would cross the Chao Phraya River to Bangkok immediately.


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