Friday, September 12, 2008

A look at candidates for Thailand's next premier

By The Associated Press – 

A look at the potential candidates to become Thailand's next prime minister:

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SOMCHAI WONGSAWAT — Acting prime minister. Brother-in-law of disgraced former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The leader of the protest movement that campaigned to bring down Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej has said Somchai, 61, would be an acceptable prime minister. An uncontroversial figure who was a deputy prime minister and education minister in Samak's cabinet.

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SOMPONG AMORNWIWAT — Justice minister. Once a successful businessman, Sompong, 68, has held Cabinet posts for transport, labor and industry in previous governments.

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SURAPONG SUEBWONGLEE — Finance minister. Served as deputy health minister in Thaksin's first government and associated with one of Thaksin's more popular programs: low cost universal health care. Surapong, 51, is the nominee most closely associated with Thaksin's political legacy. Leader of the protest movement, Sondhi Limthongkul, has suggested Surapong would be an acceptable choice.

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BANHARN SILPA-ARCHA — Former prime minister and head of the Chart Thai Party. His nickname is "The Eel" for his party's ability to slide from one side of the political spectrum to the other. Critics say alleged corruption and mismanagement of the economy during his 16-month stint as prime minister in the 1990s paved the way for the collapse of Thailand's currency, sparking the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Sondhi has indicated his protest movement wouldn't accept his selection.

ABHISIT VEJJAJIVA _ Leader of the Democrat Party, the only opposition group in Parliament. Abhisit, 44, was born in England and educated at Eton and Oxford. Critics say he is out of touch with ordinary people, particularly the rural majority, and lacks charisma. Deemed acceptable by protest leader Sondhi, he could form a new coalition with Samak's allies, freezing out the People's Power Party.

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