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Thai election settles little

Mon., April 3, 2006

The Thai prime minister’s party swept an election Sunday boycotted by the opposition, but early results showed voters in much of Bangkok, the capital, apparently cast protest ballots – a sign that the country’s political deadlock is likely to continue.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra called the election three years early to reassert his mandate after weeks of growing street protests accusing him of corruption, abuse of power and eviscerating the institutions of Thailand’s fragile democracy. Thaksin’s opponents have vowed to drive him out of office no matter what the election results.

As a result of the boycott, Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai Party will be the only party to hold seats in the new Legislature.

Because of minimum turnout requirements, some seats may remain vacant, raising constitutional questions of whether Thaksin can form a government without another round of elections.

The balloting was marred by bombings at three polling stations in southern Thailand, which is plagued by an Islamic separatist insurgency. But elections officials said turnout was high in many parts of Thailand and could be near 70 percent overall.


Fire kills man in coffee shop

An apparent explosion at a popular coffee shop killed a man Sunday in Toronto’s downtown shopping district.

The explosion occurred at a Tim Hortons coffee shop, and police said another store in the chain was locked down later in the day after a suspicious package was found there.

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair described the explosion as a fire in the washroom and said police were not looking for any suspects. He refused to speculate on a cause “until we determine precisely what happened in that cubicle and what caused those flames that took that man’s life.”

Later, Toronto police Sgt. Don Cole said gasoline or a similar accelerant likely caused the explosion.

Witnesses reported hearing a loud bang. Police said no one else was involved and there were no other injuries.


Ex-Sen. Helms’ health fading

Former U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms, in increasingly poor health before and since he left office three years ago, has vascular dementia and has moved into a convalescent center near his home, his wife said.

“He has his good days and his bad days,” Dot Helms told the News & Observer for a story Sunday. “He still sees friends. Company is good for him. He is still signing books. But he is not able to conduct any business or make any speeches.”

The 84-year-old Republican has been slowed by illnesses including a bone disorder, prostate cancer and heart problems. As his career neared its end, he made his way through the Capitol on a motorized scooter. He decided not to seek a sixth term and left Congress in January 2003.

Compiled from wire reports


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