Thai Parliament opens with new government waiting

The Parliament will usher in a new government led by the sister of deposed PM Thaksin Shinawatra.

Bangkok: Thailand`s Crown Prince opened a new Parliament on Monday that will usher in a new government led by the sister of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Lawmakers dressed in white uniforms attended the ceremony at a royal hall led by Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn.

The 500-seat lower house will convene Tuesday morning and elect the House Speaker and two deputies. Thaksin`s youngest sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, is expected to be elected prime minister by early next week.

The 2006 military coup that ousted Thaksin set off a sometimes violent struggle for power between his supporters and opponents. The Pheu Thai Party loyal to him won a 265-seat majority in the July 3 election, taking back power from the rival Democrat Party.

Pheu Thai says it will form a coalition government with 300 seats.

Yingluck, 44, has promised the sort of populist policies that made her brother so popular: a big increase in the minimum wage, credit cards for farmers and tablet computers for schoolchildren. Political reconciliation is on the agenda, though critics claim it would be implemented mainly to rehabilitate her brother and allow him to return to Thailand without fear of legal consequences.

Thaksin was accused of corruption, abuse of power and disrespect to the throne when he was in power from 2001 to 2006. The rural poor who benefited from his policies still strongly support him, but the Thai `establishment` — comprising the military, Bangkok`s commercial class and royalists — remain suspicious.

Their attitudes were reinforced last year when Thaksin`s supporters, the "Red Shirts," held two months of anti-government protests in the capital that deteriorated into violence, leaving at least 91 people dead and 1,400 wounded.

Thaksin is barred from politics and lives in exile in Dubai to escape a two-year prison term on a graft conviction that he says is politically motivated.

Bureau Report

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