Opposition rejects Thaksin's offer to join govt, if re-elected
Sutin Wannabovorn of AP
POLICE defused a small bomb planted at the headquarters of Thailand's main opposition party shortly before it was set to explode Monday, heightening tension less than a week before national polls that the opposition is boycotting.
Nobody immediately claimed responsibility for the 0.7-kilogram (1.5-pound) bomb, but officials of the opposition Democrat Party suspected political rivals were to blame, party spokesman Ong-art Klampaiboon said.
"The bomb was a political threat," he said. Police defused the device, about the size of a brick, half an hour before it was rigged to go off. Party officials were at another location when the bomb was discovered, meeting with other opposition leaders.
Police said the bomb would have shattered windows within 50 meters (165 feet) and could have caused significant damage to the headquarters, which has large glass panels on its facade, Ong-art said.
The Democrat Party and Thailand's two other main opposition parties are boycotting Sunday's elections, which Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra called to defuse growing anti-government protests and demands for his resignation.
Deepening a political stalemate, the opposition parties on Monday rejected an offer made by Thaksin a day earlier to form a national unity government if he is re-elected.
"The proposal for a national government is a political ploy to extend the life of Thaksin's government," Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva told a news conference, flanked by leaders of the Chart Thai and Mahachon parties. "The three opposition parties do not accept that."
Thaksin made the surprise compromise offer late Sunday, saying he would invite his main opponents to hold cabinet positions in his new government if he wins the election.
Tens of thousands of protesters have held anti-government rallies in Bangkok almost daily for several weeks, accusing Thaksin of widespread corruption and abuse of power and demanding his resignation.
Thaksin denies any wrongdoing, and the rallies have failed to shake his resolve to stay in power. At a rally Saturday that drew an estimated 100,000 people, protest organisers called on King Bhumibol Adulyadej to intervene in the political crisis and appoint an interim government.
Abhisit said Monday the opposition was pushing ahead with its mission to see an interim government installed -- and would not accept Thaksin's invitation for the opposition to join his government.
"The three opposition parties are maintaining our position of appealing to the king to form an interim government," Abhisit said. The king's top advisers have publicly called for calm and dialogue, but the palace has otherwise kept its distance from the fray because the constitutional monarch is not supposed to get involved in politics.
The king has, however, stepped in to resolve national crises in the past, most recently in 1992 after street demonstrations against a military-backed government were violently suppressed.
Months of small anti-Thaksin rallies ballooned into a mass movement after the prime minister's family in January announced it had sold its controlling stake in telecommunications company Shin Corp. to Singapore's state-owned Temasek Holdings for a tax-free 73.3 billion baht (US$1.9 billion; euro1.55 billion).
Critics allege the sale involved insider trading and complain that a key national asset is now in a foreign government's hands. Thaksin is also accused of cracking down on dissent and stifling press freedom.