Thai PM survives no-confidence vote

Thailand’s premier easily survived a parliamentary no-confidence vote Wednesday over his handling of deadly street protests, but a row erupted within his fragile ruling coalition.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has been accused by his political opponents of violating human rights in the tense stand-off between protesters and armed troops, who fired live rounds during several confrontations in the capital.

Thanks to his ruling coalition’s majority in the lower house, however, the censure motion submitted by the opposition was rejected by 246 votes to 186.

The Red Shirts’ rally, broken up on May 19 in an army assault on their vast encampment in the retail heart of Bangkok, sparked outbreaks of violence that have left 89 people dead, mostly civilians, and nearly 1 900 injured.

The Red Shirts were campaigning for elections they hoped would oust the government, which they view as undemocratic because it came to power with the backing of the army after a court ruling threw out the previous administration.

Deputy Premier Suthep Thaugsuban, reviled by many protesters because he oversaw an earlier deadly crackdown on April 10, also survived a no-confidence vote, along with the foreign, finance, interior and transport ministers.

But a row flared within the coalition government as the Bhumjai Thai party said it could no longer work with Puea Pandin lawmakers who withheld votes of confidence in the interior and transport ministers, both from Bhumjai Thai.

Protest leaders surrendered after the army stormed their rally base but enraged demonstrators set fire to dozens of major buildings in the capital.

The government on Saturday lifted a night-time curfew imposed 10 days earlier, saying the situation was returning to normal, but it left in place emergency rule across more than one-third of the country, including Bangkok.

Lawyers for Thaksin Shinawatra, the fugitive former premier accused by the government of bankrolling the protests and inciting unrest, said on Monday they had hired an international war-crimes expert to help investigate the crackdown.

A Thai court last week approved an arrest warrant on terrorism for Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup and lives overseas to avoid a jail term imposed in absentia for corruption.—AFP

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