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Thai prime minister tells senators he won't resign

Monday - 5/19/2014, 6:39am  ET

Leader of anti-government protesters Suthep Thaugsuban reacts as he is hugged by a supporter during a march in Bangkok, Thailand, Monday, May 19, 2014. Thailand's political crisis deepened last week when the Constitutional Court removed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra for nepotism along with nine Cabinet members in a case that many viewed as politically motivated. Protesters say Yingluck's removal is not enough, though. She was simply replaced by Niwattumrong, who was a deputy premier from the ruling party. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

BANGKOK (AP) -- Thailand's acting prime minister discussed the country's ongoing political crisis with a group of senators on Monday and insisted his government will not resign.

Prime Minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan told two representatives of the Senate that the Cabinet is willing to cooperate with the upper house but will not step down because that might violate the constitution, said Sen. Wanchai Sornsiri, the spokesman of the Senate's coordinating panel.

The senators sought the meeting after saying Friday that a government with full authority is needed to conduct political reforms. They said the Senate would move to appoint a new government if the Cabinet steps down, but stopped short of directly calling on it to do so.

The Cabinet has operated in a caretaker capacity with limited power since former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra dissolved the lower house in December in a failed bid to ease the political crisis. A new government cannot normally be named until there are elections, which anti-government demonstrators have vowed to block unless political reforms occur first.

"After being informed of the government's clear stance like this, the Senate will move on to other plans. We have backup plans that can be implemented within this week," Wanchai told reporters, without elaborating.

Earlier this month, the Constitutional Court removed Yingluck for nepotism along with nine Cabinet members in a case that many viewed as politically motivated. Protesters said her removal is not enough because she was replaced by an acting prime minister from the ruling party, Niwattumrong.

Anti-government protesters say they are making their final push to oust the government and install an unelected prime minister and government. They have promised to call off their rallies if they are not successful by May 26, following six months of street demonstrations in which 28 people have died and hundreds of others have been injured.

Thailand's political crisis began in 2006, when Yingluck's brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was toppled by a military coup after being accused of corruption, abuse of power and disrespect for King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Thaksin, a former telecommunications billionaire, remains highly popular among the poor in the north and northeast, and parties controlled by him have won every national election since 2001. The anti-government protesters, who are aligned with the opposition Democrat Party and backed by the country's traditional elites, say they want to remove all traces of his political machine from politics.


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