Thailand army 'will accept' Thaksin sister election win

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Media captionYingluck Shinawatra: "The first priority is the economy"

Thailand's outgoing defence minister has said the army accepts the election victory of Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra.

Gen Prawit Wongsuwan said the military would not stand in the way of Ms Yingluck forming a government, easing fears of another political coup.

Ms Yingluck said she is working to form a coalition after leading the Pheu Thai party to a landslide victory.

Mr Thaksin told Reuters he had no desire to be prime minister again.

"I've been with the party too long. I want to retire," he said, outside his home in Dubai, where he lives in self-imposed exile.

Mr Thaksin told reporters he was grateful to the Thai people for voicing their concerns about their country, saying it was "very clear that they want to see reconciliation in the country, they want to see an end to the conflict, and they want to see the country moving forward".

Thailand's army led the coup which removed Mr Thaksin from power in 2006, but Gen Wongsuwon said he had talked to military leaders and they had agreed they would not get involved in the election result.

"We will allow politicians to work it out," he told the AFP news agency. "The people have spoken clearly so the military cannot do anything. We accept it."

He told Reuters the army had "never entertained any idea of doing anything that will damage the country".

Image caption Mr Abhisit said he took the responsibility for his party's election defeat

The Thai baht rose more than 1% against the dollar when markets opened on Monday, performing better than other Asian currencies.

With nearly all votes counted, Ms Yingluck's Pheu Thai had a clear majority with 264 seats and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's Democrats 160.

She said there was "still a lot of work to be done in the future" to improve "the well-being of the people" and ensure the country's "unity and reconciliation".

Mr Abhisit announced he was stepping down as the Democrats' leader.

"In the spirit of a good leader of an organisation, I should take responsibility. I therefore have decided to resign from the party leadership," he said.

Mr Abhisit - who dismissed Ms Yingluck as her brother's clone and noted that her party's slogan is "Thaksin Thinks, Pheu Thai Acts" - said his opponent had the right to form a government.

"The outcome is clear. Pheu Thai has won the election and the Democrats are defeated," he said.

"I will give the chance to Yingluck, the first woman to form a government," he added. "I want to see unity and reconciliation. The Democrats are ready to be in opposition."

Last year, protesters shut down parts of Bangkok for two months in a bid to force Mr Abhisit's government to resign. When the army stepped in to clear the streets it degenerated into violence, leaving 91 people dead.

'Victory of the people'

The results of Sunday's election pave the way for Ms Yingluck, a 44-year-old business executive, to become Thailand's first female prime minister and the fifth person to hold the post since her brother.

"I don't want to say that Pheu Thai wins today. It's a victory of the people," Ms Yingluck told a crowd of supporters outside her party's headquarters after receiving a call of congratulations from her billionaire brother.

She said she was discussing a coalition with the smaller Chart Thai Pattana and other parties.

"I would like to reiterate that we are ready to deliver on all of the policies that we have announced. There is a lot of hard work ahead."

"I'll do my best and will not disappoint you."

Mr Thaksin has been found guilty of corruption by a Thai court, but says the charges were politically motivated. He now lives in Dubai to avoid a jail sentence.

In an interview with the BBC World Service from Dubai on Sunday as results were emerging, Mr Thaksin said it was clear the Thai people had voted for change.

"They want to see reconciliation, we want to have reconciliation," he said, adding that all parties would have to respect the voters' decision.

Mr Thaksin said the military should also "be listening to what the people think".

Asked whether he would now be returning to Thailand, possibly through an amnesty for all political crimes committed since 2006, Mr Thaksin insisted that he was in "no hurry".

"I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem."

The BBC's Rachel Harvey in Bangkok says Mr Thaksin's return would almost certainly be unacceptable to the army generals who removed him from power five years ago.

It is unclear whether this election will mark a new start, a chance to leave the bitterness and bloodshed behind, or test Thailand's fragile democracy once more, our correspondent adds.