Thai PM survives no-confidence vote

Nov. 28, 2013 at 12:57 AM
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BANGKOK, Nov. 28 (UPI) -- Thai Prime Minster Yingluck Shinawatra, whose government is facing unrelenting anti-government protests, easily overcame a no-confidence vote Thursday.

Her Interior Minister Charupong Ruangsuwan also survived a similar motion in Parliament, which was introduced amid ongoing confrontation between lawmakers of the ruling coalition led by the Pheu Thai party and the opposition Democrat party, which is seeking the resignation of the Yingluck government.

The prime minster, whose party enjoys a majority in Parliament, defeated the no-confidence motion 297-134 with five abstentions, the Bangkok Nation reported. Charupong won 296-135 with four abstentions.

Yingluck has refused to resign or dissolve Parliament.

The protesters, in their campaign to disrupt government offices, marched on 10 ministries Wednesday to stop employees from entering their offices. Protesting the enforcement of the Internal Security Act in the capital Bangkok and neighboring areas, the protesters demanded ministry workers and officials stop serving what they called the vested interests of the government.

Yingluck, in her order Tuesday to bring Bangkok and nearby areas under the Internal Security Act, told the nation on television the protests, which began three weeks ago, were no longer peaceful rallies and that their participants were resorting to occupying state offices, tearing down gates, and cutting off power and water supply, threatening national security. But she assured her government would not use force against the protesters.

The act's provisions allow authorities to impose curfews, and set up checkpoints and restrict the movement of demonstrators.

The protesters, numbering about 17,000, also targeted the Department of Special Investigations headquarters Wednesday, police said.

However, Deputy Prime Minister Pracha Promnog said Thursday state offices can continue to run even if the protesters led by former Democrat lawmaker Suthep Thaugsuban blocked more ministries and provincial halls, the Nation reported. Pracha said he had talked to various provincial governors on telephone, who told him no officials had agreed to join the strike,

The Bangkok Post said it was unclear how the deadlock would end as both sides remained firm. Suthep insists the Yingluck government is unlawful, while the government says Suthep's seizing of state offices and breaching the peace is similar to overthrowing democracy. Both sides also have accused each other of treason, the Post said.

The protesters maintain the Yingluck government is controlled by her brother and former Premier Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin, a telecommunications billionaire who was ousted in a coup in 2006 and who has lived in exile since, is accused of influencing policies through his sister's government.

CNN reported even after the no-confidence voting, the protests were growing in Bangkok.

Suthep had earlier reportedly vowed the protests would not stop until Yingluck's regime is "wiped out."

The protests are being watched by the United States, which considers Thailand a close ally and critical for its new Asia-Pacific pivot. Earlier this week, State Department's Jen Psaki said the U.S. government is "concerned about the rising political tension in Thailand" and is following the protests in Bangkok closely.

The current protests were triggered after Yingluck came under fire for backing an amnesty bill critics contend is designed to allow Thaksin to return to Thailand. Earlier this month, the Thai Senate rejected the bill, but that has not calmed the protesters.

The scene is not much different from what happened during March through May of 2010. That year, thousands of pro-Thaksin red shirt protesters occupied parts of Bangkok. After weeks of negotiations with no resolution, the Thai military was called in to end the protest, which resulted in the deaths of about 90 people.

Thaksin, though convicted of abuse of power, continues to enjoy support in many regions of Thailand. His sister Yingluck has been in power for about 30 months, during which she has promoted a number of populist measures, some of them seen as bringing heavy financial burden on the country.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed concern about the current "rising political tensions" in the Thai capital.

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