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World News

Thai PM says not worried about large "No" vote

Thailand's Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont (R) walks out of Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram temple after praying in Malaysia's northern island of Penang August 22, 2007. Thailand's military-installed government denied on Wednesday that its narrow victory in a constitutional referendum reflected strong support for ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. REUTERS/Zainal Abd Halim

PENANG, Malaysia (Reuters) - Thailand’s military-installed government denied on Wednesday that its narrow victory in a constitutional referendum reflected strong support for ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thai voters approved an army-drafted constitution on Sunday, but a hefty “No” vote suggested December’s scheduled general election would be messy. Thaksin, 58, remains a potent political force despite being exiled in Britain since the military overthrew him last September.

“No, I don’t have any concern about that,” Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said when asked about the large “No” vote after holding bilateral talks in Malaysia.

“I think by that time, in December, the Thai people, they have to choose the new government and I think they do understand the difficult time we have had in the last two years.”

About 57 percent of Thai voters accepted the charter, which is designed to prevent a repeat of Thaksin’s powerful single-party style of government, election officials said.

But roughly 41 percent rejected it, sending a signal to the generals who removed the telecoms billionaire that they will struggle to control the make-up of the next administration.

“This is the first step -- that the Thai people already accept the new constitution -- and we are working furiously towards the general election in December,” Surayud told reporters on the Malaysian island of Penang.

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