- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Thailand’s ruling party endorsed the brother-in-law of a controversial former leader Monday as its nominee to become the next prime minister, paving the way for more strife with anti-government demonstrators.

After days of closed-door talks, the executive committee of the Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, at a parliamentary vote scheduled for Wednesday, said party spokesman Kuthep Saikrajang.

Mr. Somchai served as deputy prime minister and education minister under Samak Sundaravej, who was forced to resign as prime minister last week for violating the constitution. But he is best known as the brother-in-law of Mr. Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup by military leaders who accused him of corruption.

The People’s Alliance for Democracy, a strident anti-government group whose supporters have occupied the prime minister’s office compound since Aug. 26, immediately rejected Mr. Somchai as a future prime minister.

The protesters accused Mr. Samak of being a stooge for Mr. Thaksin, who recently fled to Britain to escape corruption charges. Mr. Thaksin was ousted in a military coup after street demonstrations by the same group, which has vowed to continue its protests if another Thaksin ally is named prime minister.

“Somchai is very close to the Shinawatra family,” said Chamlong Srimuanng, one of the protest leaders. “He is Thaksin’s brother-in-law and will be even more his proxy than Samak ever was.”

The Constitutional Court ruled that Mr. Samak had violated a conflict-of-interest law by accepting money for hosting TV cooking shows while in office and had ordered him to resign. It was an unrelated twist in the country’s deepening political crisis.

Protesters against the government initially said their goal was to remove Mr. Samak but now say they will not accept any successor from his party or ally of Mr. Thaksin.

The alliance is a mix of monarchists, members of the military and the urban elite.

On Sunday, Mr. Somchai lifted a state of emergency that Mr. Samak imposed two weeks ago after a night of violent street clashes of government supporters with opponents. One man was killed and dozens were injured in the fighting.

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