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Associated Press
Samak Sundaravej

Samak Bows Out of Thai PM Race

September 12, 2008 06:25 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Samak Sundaravej, who was ousted Tuesday but then nominated to replace himself, now says he will drop his campaign to regain his job.

Samak will not pursue prime minister post

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The 73-year-old former prime minister, who was given the boot for hosting cooking shows while in office, will not be a candidate when the Thai parliament conducts its vote next week for a new leader, reports Reuters.

"He said he did his best to protect democracy. From now on it's up to the party to decide what to do next," said Samak aide Thirapol Noprampa.

Earlier this week, Samak had accepted the re-nomination of his political party, the People's Power Party. The move soon drew opposition from factions within the party fearing that it would only contribute to the country's political turmoil, and the vote on the issue that was supposed to take place Friday was delayed.

Members of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), who have been occupying Samak's offices and have been protesting his rule for several months now, applauded the move but say they will continue to oppose anyone nominated by Samak's political party, the People's Power Party (PPP).

The Bangkok Post reports that possible candidates for the prime minister post now include acting prime minister Somchai Wongsawat, the brother-in-law of the other ousted former prime minister--Thaksin Shinawatra; Sompong Amornwiwat, a policeman from northern Thailand; and Surapong Suebwonglee, the current economic czar.

The Thai army released a statement after the announcement calling for the deeply divided government to compromise and to remove the state of emergency that Samak imposed on Bangkok when he was still prime minister.

Thailand’s Constitution Court ruled unanimously Tuesday that Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej violated a law against working for private companies while prime minister by hosting two cooking TV shows.

The ruling required him to leave office immediately, but allowed for him to be re-elected into office by parliament. Samak said that the charges were politically motivated and has denied any wrongdoing.

Background: Cooking Shows Land Samak in Hot Water

Samak had hosted the shows “Touring at 6 a.m.” and “Tasting and Grumbling,” which featured the prime minister cooking up traditional Thai dishes such as Tom Kha Salmon, with a side of political rants on various topics.

Samak’s seven-month rule was marked by months of street protests by members of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD). He refused last week to negotiate with demonstrators, but proposed holding a public referendum to determine if he should stay or go.

In a special radio address broadcast last Thursday, Samak said that he would protect democracy against those who wish to bring “anarchy” to Thailand. “I am not resigning, I will not dissolve parliament. I have to stay in order to preserve democracy and to protect the monarchy,” he said.

Nonetheless, Samak said the following day that he was considering ending the emergency rule that he imposed on the country Sept. 2 in response to violent clashes between government supporters and protesters seeking to oust Samak from office. “Yes, I am thinking about that,” he said, according to Forbes.

Key Player: Samak Sundaravej

Sundaravej grew up in an aristocratic family and graduated from Thammasat University with a degree in law. Before becoming prime minister, he served in the interior ministry, was one of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s deputy prime ministers and was governor of Bangkok for four years. His rule, which began in January 2008, has been marked by protests, a poor economy and rising inflation. He has also come under criticism for his close ties with and support of ousted former leader Shinawatra. Samak’s People Power Party (PPP) was formed from the remnants of Thaksin’s Thak Rak Thai party.

Related Topic: ‘Former Thai Prime Minister Flees Corruption Charges’

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