Thai prime minister survives no-confidence vote

AP News
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Posted: Mar 19, 2011 12:48 AM
Thai prime minister survives no-confidence vote

Thailand's prime minister comfortably survived a no-confidence vote in parliament Saturday following a heated debate that provided a taste of the tone that can be expected during elections planned for later this year.

The vote came after a four-day censure debate in which the opposition Puea Thai Party accused the government of unjustified killings during last year's anti-government Red Shirt protests, which resulted in about 90 deaths.

The opposition also blamed the government for widespread mismanagement that led to rising consumer prices, a shortage of palm oil and corruption during a contentious debate that pundits called a laundry list of old complaints.

The Puea Thai Party is closely associated with the Red Shirt protest movement, which supports ousted ex-leader Thaksin Shinawatra and claims current Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva took power illegitimately.

Abhisit's term ends in December, but he has said he will call early elections by mid-July.

Lawmakers voted 249 to 184 to keep Abhisit in power until upcoming polls. Nine other Cabinet ministers also survived no-confidence votes by comfortable margins.

In its Saturday editorial, the English-language Bangkok Post called it a "lackluster debate with an absence of telling punches" that featured "the usual bluster and time-wasting, moments of pure farce and bad taste, barely suppressed yawns and occasional flurries of inflammatory rhetoric."

The editorial called the debate "a foretaste of the elections" to come and urged candidates to focus on the future, not the past.

Thailand has been gripped by political turmoil since 2006, when the military toppled Thaksin in a coup after months of protests alleging he was corrupt and had treated the country's esteemed King Bhumibol Adulyadej with disrespect.

Thaksin's opponents _ known as the Yellow Shirts _ and his Red Shirt supporters have both staged aggressive street protests. The most violent and deadly protest was last year's Red Shirt demonstrations that ended with an army crackdown and the protesters' burning of a major shopping mall and dozens of other public buildings.