Tuesday, September 9, 2008

TIMELINE: Thailand's long-running political crisis

Tue Sep 9, 2008 6:42am EDT

(Reuters) - Thailand's Constitutional Court ordered Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej to stand down on Tuesday, accusing him of breaking the law by hosting cooking shows on commercial television while in office.

His party said it would seek his re-election as premier by parliament on Friday.

Here is a chronology charting the political turmoil that has dogged the Southeast Asian country.

-- 2005

* September: Sondhi Limthongkul, a disgruntled former business associate, starts the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), a street campaign dedicated to ousting Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Sondhi argues that Thaksin's huge parliamentary majority has made him corrupt.

-- 2006

* April 2: Thaksin wins a snap election designed to silence Sondhi's increasingly biting criticism, but the victory is undermined by an opposition boycott that renders the result void. Judges annul the entire poll a few weeks later.

* September 19: Military stages coup while Thaksin is at U.N. headquarters in New York. He retreats into exile in London.

* October 1: Former army commander-in-chief Surayud Chulanont sworn in as interim prime minister.

-- 2007

* March 26: Prosecutors charge Thaksin's wife, Potjaman, her brother and secretary with tax evasion.

* May 30: Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party is dissolved for breaking election laws. Thaksin and 110 other senior party members are banned from politics for five years.

* August 20: Voters endorse new, military-drafted constitution, the 18th in 75 years of on-off democracy.

* December 23: Pro-Thaksin People Power Party (PPP) falls just short of outright majority in a general election.

-- 2008

* Jan 8: Thaksin's wife, Potjaman, returns to Thailand after months of exile to fight corruption charges.

* Jan 28: PPP leader Samak Sundaravej elected prime minister, heading a six-party coalition.

* Feb 28: Thaksin returns to thunderous welcome at Bangkok airport after 18 months in exile.

* March 10: Charges filed against Thaksin over illegal use of state lottery funds. He pleads not guilty.

* May 25: PAD resumes its street protests, this time to overthrow what it says is a "Thaksin puppet" government.

* July 31: Potjaman sentenced to three years' jail for tax fraud. Freed on bail, she and Thaksin fly to Beijing for the Olympic Games opening ceremony on August 8.

* Aug 11: Thaksin and wife fail to return to Thailand from Beijing to report to the courts. From London he issues a statement blaming his flight on his opponents' meddling in the judicial system.

* Aug 26: Thousands of royalist demonstrators storm state broadcaster NBT and Samak's official compound in a PAD-organized attempt to unseat his government.

* Aug 29: Riot police scuffle with protesters as they deliver eviction orders at Government House. Demonstrations spread from the capital, forcing the temporary closure of airports in Krabi and Phuket, two southern tourist destinations. Rail services are also disrupted by strikes.

* Sept 2: Samak declares state of emergency in Bangkok after one person is killed and 45 hurt in overnight clashes between his supporters and anti-government protesters. Army chief says force will not be used to break up occupation of government compound.

* Sept 4: Samak proposes national referendum to end the crisis, but details are murky. PAD rejects the idea, calling it a government delaying tactic.

* Sept 6: Thai military brass meet to discuss crisis, fuelling rumors of a coup. Supreme commander says another putsch is not an option, for now.

* Sept 8: Samak appears in court to deny charges that he broke conflict of interest rules by hosting TV cooking shows while in office.

* Sept 9: Constitutional Court finds Samak guilty of violating constitution, says he must quit. His People Power Party immediately says it will renominate him as prime minister.

Source: Reuters

(Compiled by Bangkok bureau and Gillian Murdoch, Beijing Editorial Reference Unit; Editing by Darren Schuettler and Alan Raybould)

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