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Page last updated at 14:02 GMT, Wednesday, 17 September 2008 15:02 UK

Thai MPs elect new prime minister

Somchai Wongsawat celebrates after being selected as the Thai ruling party's candidate for PM on Monday
The new prime minister is married to Mr Thaksin's sister

The brother-in-law of ousted Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra has won a majority parliamentary vote to become the country's new prime minister.

Somchai Wongsawat, whose candidacy was supported by the governing People Power Party (PPP), has promised to do his "very best" as prime minister.

Mr Somchai became acting PM last week after a court forced his predecessor, Samak Sundaravej, to step down.

Protesters in Bangkok claim the present government is a proxy for Mr Thaksin.

Clashes between government supporters and opponents earlier this month left one person dead.

Demonstrators from the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) have been occupying key government buildings in Bangkok for the past three weeks, demanding the government's resignation.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court in Thailand has issued a third arrest warrant for Mr Thaksin after he failed to appear in court to hear corruption charges relating to a land sale.

'Erase doubts'

Mr Somchai, 61, won the simple majority vote in Bangkok's lower house of parliament after five days of negotiations.

He thanked the members of parliament who voted for him for having confidence in him.

He might have a better reputation than everyone else, but blood is thicker than water
Somsak Kosaisuk, PAD
Mr Somchai told reporters that the country had seen many conflicts, but that he personally harboured no anger or hatred.

"It's about time for national reconciliation in Thailand," he said.

Opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said Mr Somchai must hold urgent meetings with anti-government protesters.

"The new prime minister must clearly show how he is going to ease the situation. He must work to erase any doubts," said Mr Abhisit.

Decisions scrutinised

Former Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra (file image)
Protesters say the government is a proxy for Thaksin Shinawatra
Mr Somchai's government is expected to face continued opposition because Mr Somchai is married to Mr Thaksin's sister, says the BBC's Jonathan Head in Bangkok.

Every decision the new prime minister makes will be scrutinised for signs of his brother-in-law's hand in it, our correspondent adds.

Somsak Kosaisuk, a key leader of the PAD, has dismissed Mr Somchai as "only a nominee" for Mr Thaksin, adding: "How can people accept this?"

He told demonstrators camped in the grounds of Government House that Mr Somchai "might have a gentlemanly nature, a soft-spoken style and he might have a better reputation than everyone else, but blood is thicker than water".

Mr Somchai said that there was no denying his family connections but that he would "do things the right way" to show his "sincerity in trying to solve our problems".

Mr Thaksin fled to Britain in July to avoid corruption charges, which he says are politically motivated.

With the formality of a parliamentary vote behind him, the immediate task now confronting Mr Somchai is to get the government functioning again, our correspondent says.



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