Oxford-educated economist is new Thai Premier

In a bid to end months of political turmoil, Thai lawmakers has chosen opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva as the country’s new prime minister.

The 44-year-old British-born politician and Oxford-educated economist won by vote of 235-198 and ended the seven-year authority of those loyal to the former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.

Abhisit’s Democrat party is well supported in the south and Bangkok, where activists led a 193-day movement against the People Power Party. He defeated a candidate supported by Puea Thai, the Thaksin-backed successor to the PPP, which won 68 more seats than the Democrats in last year’s election.

new thai premier

Thailand has been in political and economic turmoil since anti-government protesters hit the streets on May 25, and subsequently seized the Prime Minister’s Office on Aug 26 before closing down Bangkok’s two major airports at the end of last month.

The selection of a new premier was expected to cool down the country’s tumultuous politics. However, a number of Thaksin devotees tried to obstruct the gates of Parliament in a final attempt to avert the outcome. They also attacked some Democrat MPs’ cars parking outside the parliament and demanded a House dissolution. Riot police later cleared a path for lawmakers to leave the compound.

Their protest was swiftly discharged. But with the country still bitterly divided most analysts foresee that Thailand’s political unrest will persist.

Abhisit told reporters that his party would focus on national harmony and economic issues.

Photo: The New York Times