November 29, 2013 in Nation/World

Thailand’s prime minister survives no-confidence vote

Mark Magnier Los Angeles Times
 
Associated Press photo

Thai soldiers stand guard at Defense Ministry where anti-government protesters gathered in Bangkok on Thursday.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Thailand’s prime minister easily survived a no-confidence vote Thursday, but hundreds of protesters continued to besiege ministries in the capital as her embattled government sought a way out of its political crisis.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s ruling Pheu Thai party prevailed in parliament by a vote of 297 to 134. The opposition hoped to unseat the government, but members of Yingluck’s party held firm in their commanding majority to blunt the challenge.

But her bigger challenge is out on the streets. While the number of protesters on Thursday was lower than in the previous three days, most have jobs, making it unclear whether this was a temporary lull before the weekend or evidence of the movement losing steam.

The crisis was sparked by a bill presented in parliament last month that would have granted amnesty to Yingluck’s older brother, former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, following his 2008 conviction on corruption charges. The motion was defeated, but it awakened opponents of Thaksin, who accused him of buying his sister’s landslide election and directing her administration from abroad.

The issue also has reopened a deep split between poorer, mostly rural Thais known as “red shirts” who feel they have not benefited from the nation’s prosperity, a group from which Thaksin and Yingluck draw their support, and a middle and upper class broadly aligned with the nation’s military and monarchy, known as “yellow shirts.”

The two sides, named after the T-shirts they often wore to identify themselves, clashed in 2010 after red shirts occupied parts of the capital for two months, ending in an assault by the army that killed dozens.

In a television address, the prime minister appealed for calm, calling on the anti-government activists to end their protests and enter into talks. “The government doesn’t want to enter into any political games because we believe it will cause the economy to deteriorate,” she said.

Yingluck has vowed not to use force against the anti-government demonstrators, gambling that they’ll run out of steam. Footage on Thursday showed bands of protesters waving flags, blowing whistles and blocking traffic as they marched on the defense and education ministries and national police headquarters.

Protesters also pulled down several power cables outside police headquarters and a nearby hospital, forcing them to use generators, police said Thursday.

“I will not dissolve the house,” Yingluck told reporters before the vote in parliament. “Let us find a way out of this together.”

Protesters have occupied the Finance Ministry since Monday but haven’t succeeded in making their way into other ministries as threatened.

Analysts said they don’t see any early resolution.

“The government has the majority and it won’t resign, so this is a deadlock and I don’t see any end to it,” said Vanchai Ariyabuddhiphongs, a researcher at Bangkok University’s Graduate School.


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