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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 May 2006, 15:15 GMT 16:15 UK
Thai PM back at head of cabinet
Thaksin Shinawatra
Mr Thaksin has been the focus of repeated street protests
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has chaired his first cabinet meeting since stepping aside from front-line politics seven weeks ago.

"I am fully back at work," Mr Thaksin told Thai media before the meeting.

He handed power to his deputy after an election, which was later annulled, failed to quell protests against him.

Observers say signs of a return to political life will alarm opponents who accuse Mr Thaksin of abusing power and weakening democratic institutions.

But Transport Minister Pongsak Raktapongpisal told Thai radio on Monday that Mr Thaksin did not want a long political vacuum, adding that "we still don't know when new elections will be held".

King's intervention

Mr Thaksin stood aside in April, after weeks of street protests in which his opponents accused him of corruption and incompetence.

The BBC's Jonathan Head, in Bangkok, says the decision had the intended effect.

The anti-Thaksin street protests have melted away and Thailand has been calm despite extraordinary levels of political confusion, our correspondent adds.

The results of April's election results were disputed, leading to a rare intervention by the Thai king, who ordered the courts to take action.

Judges ruled the entire election result invalid because not all parliamentary seats were filled. They ordered a re-run, but no date has yet been set.

Mr Thaksin recently suggested he would return to political life ahead of the re-run, but he has so far failed to state whether he will run again for prime minister in the new elections.

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