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Abhisit Vejjajiva: Talking politics with Thailand's PM

  • Story Highlights
  • Abhisit is Thailand's third Prime Minister in four months, youngest in 60 years
  • Leader of Democrat Party since 2005, now leads coalition government
  • Career politician who was educated at Eton and Oxford University in the UK
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(CNN) -- At 44-years-old Abhisit Vejjajiva is Thailand's youngest prime minister in more than 60 years. But perhaps more immediately significantly, he is the country's third prime minister in four months after a period of immense upheaval in Thailand.

After just two days of taking office, Thai PM Abhisit Vejjajiva talked to CNN's Dan Rivers for Talk Asia.

After just two days of taking office, Thai PM Abhisit Vejjajiva talked to CNN's Dan Rivers for Talk Asia.

Thailand's recent political turmoil, which included national demonstrations and the forced closures of international airports, dates back to the 2006 coup that overthrew former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the former People's Power Party leader.

In September, the Constitutional Court forced out his replacement Samak Sundaravej, finding that he had violated the constitution by appearing as a paid guest on a television cooking show.

In turn he was replaced by Thaksin's brother-in-law, Somchai Wongsawat, who immediately found himself beset by opposition demonstrations that accused him of leading a proxy government for Thaksin. He too was thrown out by a Constitutional Court ruling.

Abhisit was named as the new Prime Minister on December 15, and his biggest challenge will be to steady a country that until recently was known as one of the most region's most stable.

Show times

Wednesday, December 24: 14.00 GMT (22.00 Hong Kong)
Thursday, December 25: 08.00 GMT (16.00 Hong Kong)
Saturday, December 27: 15.30 GMT (23.30 Hong Kong)
Monday, December 29: 03.00 GMT (11.00 Hong Kong)

A career politician, Abhisit was born in Newcastle in the north east of England to wealthy Thai-Chinese parents and attended Eton, one of the UK's top private schools before studying politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford University.

While highly critical of the corruption and cronyism in Thai politics, Abhisit's own route to power has not been as he may have wanted it. As leader of the Democrat Party since 2005, he failed to win either of the elections he contended.

He was chosen by the Thai parliament to be Prime Minister during a special session. His selection was contingent on support of factions from the now banned PPP who changed allegiance, many of whom he had previously criticized.

Abhisit now leads a coalition government with a small majority consisting of a number of parties and interests, leading political commentators to speculate about the length of his tenure in office, many suggesting more than a year in power would be a success.

Countering accusations of inexperience, Abhisit can still boast 17 years of political practice, having become a parliamentarian at the age of 27.

As well as being young and cosmopolitan, he has gained a reputation as being above the sleaze and corruption that has dogged many other Thai politicians, while he publicly opposed the bloodless military coup that removed Thaksin from office 2006.

However critics have said that his policies are borrowed heavily from Thaksin and that his party's decision to boycott the snap election in 2006 led to the constitutional crisis and coup against Thaksin.

Most of Abhisit's support comes from the educated middle classes and gaining support, or at least lessening the divisions between sections of Thai society is something he has been immediately faced with.

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"He needs to send a clear signal of change that he is a leader who will reach out to all," said Bunranaj Smutharak, a spokesman for Abhisit's Democrat Party.

"We are confident the long turmoil over the past two years will be brought to an end by this change in government," he said. "What we set out to do is reunite the country."

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