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King: Post-coup Thailand 'not good at all'

THAILAND: Thailand's influential king on Thursday warned dissolving the two main political parties would damage the country's image, commenting that the post-coup situation was "not good at all."

Speaking at a nationally televised ceremony at Chitralada palace, King Bhumibol Adulyadej addressed Thailand's top judges urged to act fairly.

"You have responsibilities to make the country not sink. You can advise people because you have knowledge. I ask you to solve the current situation which is not good at all," he said.

The rare comments come ahead of Wednesday's Constitutional Court ruling that could result in the dissolution of Thai Rak Thai (TRT), the party created by deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra, and the opposition Democrat Party.

"Whatever the judgement is, it will damage the country," said the 79-year-old king, who is almost universally adored by Thais.

"When the judgement about politics comes, it is very important ... The nation needs political parties," he said.

King Bhumibol has few legal powers but wields enormous influence over his people, who revere him with an almost god-like devotion.

Nine constitutional court judges who were appointed by the junta after a September coup are to rule on vote fraud charges against Thaksin's political party and the Democrat Party on Wednesday.

If found guilty, the parties would be dissolved and the party executives banned from politics for five years, meaning prominent leaders could not run in December polls promised by the junta.

The king's comments came amid growing fears that Wednesday's ruling could set off violence, prompting authorities to warn that the junta would be ready to impose "an emergency decree" if the situation warrants.

Addressing supreme administrative court judges visiting the palace, the king said they should "judge whether the Constitutional Court's (expected) verdict is right or wrong."

"I don't have power to say they (constitutional court judges) are right or wrong. But I have my own judgement which cannot be said. I don't have power. But you have to think whether your judge friends make a right or wrong verdict," he said.

On his 79th birthday in December, the king praised the country's post-coup government as "wise and experienced," but hinted he expected to see a new premier within a year. The monarch, who with 60 years on the throne is the world's longest-serving monarch, has seen 24 prime ministers, 18 coups and 17 constitutions.

The palace ceremony was part of celebrations marking the king's anniversary.

Bangkok, Friday, AFP

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