September 11, 2008 / 3:53 AM / 11 years ago

Thai army urges caretaker govt to lift emergency

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand’s army commander urged the caretaker government on Thursday to lift a state of emergency because of the damage it was causing the country, as ruling parties continued horsetrading over who to elect prime minister.

Thai Army chief Anupong Paochinda speaks during a news conference at the army headquarters in Bangkok on September 2, 2008. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang

“I have given my proposal to the caretaker premier because I think it is an appropriate time to cancel the state of emergency in Bangkok,” army chief Anupong Paochinda told reporters.

“If the state of emergency remains, it would severely damage the community.”

Samak Sundaravej, who was sacked as prime minister by the courts on Tuesday, imposed a state of emergency in the capital on Sept. 2 after violent clashes between pro- and anti-government groups following months of street protests aimed at toppling him.

The situation has become much calmer, although underlying political tensions remain.

The protracted crisis is affecting confidence in the economy and Finance Minister Surapong Suebwonglee said on Wednesday the government’s growth target would be missed as a result. It had forecast growth of between 5 and 6 percent this year.

Thailand’s main stock index has fallen around 25 percent since the street campaign began in late May.

Samak was removed as prime minister by the Constitutional Court for a conflict of interest involving his paid work as host of a cooking show for a commercial TV station.

His cabinet had to step down too, but the ministers now form a caretaker cabinet with Somchai Wongsawat, formerly a deputy prime minister, as acting premier.

Somchai is a leading candidate to replace Samak permanently, a move that could inflame the political situation since he is a brother-in-law of Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted as prime minister in a military coup in 2006.

Protesters from the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) accused Samak of being a puppet of Thaksin, who is barred from politics. They have occupied the compound of the prime minister’s office for more than two weeks.

Parliament is due to elect a new prime minister on Friday.

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