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Thai PM survives no-confidence motion

Thailand's prime minister survived a parliamentary no-confidence vote today brought by the opposition after weeks of political protests during which 88 people died and both tourism and the economy suffered.

world Updated: Jun 02, 2010 10:36 IST

Thailand's prime minister survived a parliamentary no-confidence vote on Wednesday brought by the opposition after weeks of political protests during which 88 people died and both tourism and the economy suffered.

The opposition had accused the government of violating the human rights of thousands of anti-government protesters whose nine-week demonstration from mid-March descended into urban warfare and the worst political violence in modern Thai history.

The government was also accused of corruption and economic mismanagement, and the foreign minister faced charges of disloyalty to the monarch -- a severe accusation in a country with some of the world's toughest lese-majeste laws.

After two days of nearly non-stop parliamentary grilling broadcast live on television, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva won 246 votes with 186 against, confounding sceptics who expected him to be politically crippled by the weeks of violence.

"Abhisit has emerged reasonably strong from the debate, at least among the powerful middle classes," said Sombat Thamrongthanyawong, head of the National Institute of Development Administration, an independent think tank.

"Since he is the incumbent who has support of the coalition, he won't feel the need to go to the polls soon," he added.

The opposition Puea Thai Party, the latest in a series of political parties led or backed by ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, claimed the government was at fault for the weeks of violence in which nearly 1,800 were also wounded.

Its speakers said excessive measures, such as night operations and the use of live ammunition, were used by troops in attempts to surround two protest sites before they finally dispersed the demonstrators on May 19.

DEBATE ON ROYAL COMMENTS

The British-born, Oxford-educated Abhisit said shadowy militants lurking among peaceful demonstrators triggered the bloodshed to try to discredit and topple his government. He encouraged an independent investigation into recent violence.

Chalerm Yoobamrung, chairman of the opposition, said on Tuesday Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya had tried to undermine the country's revered monarchy with "wretched and vile" comments about reform of the royal institution -- a rare accusation against the royalist-backed government.

Chalerm was referring to comments made by Kasit during a speech in April at Washington's Johns Hopkins University, in which he said Thailand should consider how the monarchy could be reformed in the globalised world.

Lese-majeste, or insults to the royal institution, carries a punishment of up to 15 years in prison in Thailand. The current Democrat Party-led government is popular among royalists and few allegations of disloyalty have been made against it.

The mostly poor rural and urban protesters, broadly allied with Thaksin, have demanded a snap election and say Abhisit has no popular mandate after coming to power in a parliamentary vote at the head of a coalition assembled with help from the military.

Abhisit says he was voted into office by the same parliament that picked his Thaksin-allied predecessors.

Puea Thai was formed after the ruling pro-Thaksin People's Power Party was dissolved for electoral fraud. Its previous incarnation, Thai Rak Thai, was disbanded after the 2006 coup that removed Thaksin, who lives in self-imposed exile to avoid a jail term for graft and new charges of terrorism.

Eleven lawmakers formally abstained in the vote on Abhisit and 21 did not enter a vote. Abhisit's deputy and four other cabinet ministers also survived the motion, some with narrower margins.