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Agency discusses charges against PM

THAILAND'S anti-corruption agency has discussed charges of negligence against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra as the leader of protests aimed at forcing her from power suggested a televised debate after weeks of refusing to talk.

The charges relate to a rice subsidy scheme that paid farmers above the market price and has run out of funds, adding to the government's woes as farmers - normally the prime minister's biggest supporters - demand their money.

More than 300 government supporters gathered outside the National Anti-Corruption Commission in north Bangkok where the charges were discussed with Ms Yingluck's lawyers, as riot police stood guard inside the complex.

Because of the protest, the hearing had to be moved to a different location and Ms Yingluck, who has stayed mostly out of Bangkok in recent days, did not attend.

The anti-government protesters elsewhere in the city, whose disruption of a general election this month has left Thailand in paralysis, want to topple her and erase the influence of her brother, ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra, seen by many as the real power in the country.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, known for making dramatic gestures without always following through, said he was willing to appear in a live television debate with Ms Yingluck after weeks of refusing any form of talks.

He told supporters yesterday: "Just tell me when and where. Give us two chairs and a microphone and transmit it live on television so the people can see."

Ms Yingluck gave a guarded response, saying: "The talks have to have a framework, though I am not sure what that framework would look like."

Boonyakiat Karavekphan, a political analyst at Ramkamhaeng University, said he did not doubt Mr Suthep's sincerity in proposing the talks but that he definitely had some objective.

He said: "He isn't oblivious to all the recent violence and this public talk on television might be his exit strategy."

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Local government

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