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Newly elected PM Somchai already under scrutiny

Thailand's new Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat came under heavy criticism from opposition forces on Wednesday. They see him as a mere "puppet" of his brother-in-law, the ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

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Analysts predict Somchai Wongsawat’s tenure as Thai Prime Minister will be short-lived because of his associations with his brother-in-law and ousted former premier, Thaksin Shinawatra.

Somchai won a parliamentary poll on Wednesday to become the country’s new prime minister.

His official appointment comes after predecessor Samak Sundaravej was forced from office for “conflicts of interest” that arose from his appearance on popular TV cookery programmes.

Somchai’s election comes at a turbulent time in Thailand, with government at a virtual standstill. His appointment, however, is unlikely to alleviate political stalemate in the Asian kingdom.

His billionaire brother-in-law Thaksin was forced from office in September 2006 in a military coup d’etat – and opponents claim Somchai’s appointment can only mean a continuation of the Thaksin regime by proxy.

Members of the opposition People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) party have occupied government buildings for the last three weeks demanding the government’s resignation.

They say Somchai has been able to pull strings in Thailand due to his brother-in-law’s considerable wealth.

Thaksin, who is still wanted in Thailand on corruption charges linked to land deals, recently sold his stake in Manchester City football club for an 80 per cent gain.

Opponents will watch former judge Somchai closely for signs of his brother-in-law’s influence.

Analysts say Somchai, whose first act was to lift the official state of emergency in Thailand, will only be able to hold on to power for a few weeks due to opposition pressure and his close associations with his brother-in-law, especially while his wife, Thaksin’s sister, is herself implicated in the corruption allegations that marred his administration.
 

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