News / Asia

Thai Government Faces Grilling

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva takes his seat at parliament for a no-confidence debate, March 15, 2011 in Bangkok, Thailand
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva takes his seat at parliament for a no-confidence debate, March 15, 2011 in Bangkok, Thailand

Thailand’s government is facing a no confidence vote this week, accused by the opposition of mismanagement, corruption and orchestrating the violent end to last year’s anti-government protest.  Lawmakers are holding three days of debate on the allegations, even as anti-government protests continue.

Analysts say Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s coalition is likely to survive the vote, as long as the established powers continue backing it.  However, it will be weakened and an upcoming election is not likely to heal divisions.  

Discontent

Thailand’s main opposition, the Puea Thai party, is accusing Abhisit and nine other ministers of abuse of power and mismanaging the country.

The government is defending its actions during three days of debate among Thai lawmakers, who will then vote on whether to dissolve the government.

The opposition’s accusations range from failing to control rising food prices to shirking responsibility for last year's violent clashes in Bangkok between the military and anti-government demonstrators.

From March through May, about 90 people, mostly civilians, were killed after the government ordered soldiers to clear thousands of protesters demanding new elections from the city’s streets.

Thai authorities say security forces fired only to defend themselves from armed elements among the protesters.

One year later, critics decry the lack of a full and independent investigation into the violence.

"What happened in May last year has not really been resolved.  And, then the key issues have not been seriously addressed by the government.  And, also the fact that the government has been reluctant to admit any guilt during the crackdown, I think that could be a serious issue that could kind of cause an impact on the government's credibility and legitimacy,"  said Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a research fellow at Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

Despite the criticism, spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn insists the investigation is operating independently and that final results are delayed by the sheer scale of the investigation and court procedures.

Red vs yellow shirts

Many of the protesters, known as the Red Shirts, support the opposition and former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was overthrown by the military in 2006 and now lives in exile to avoid prison on corruption charges.

They say those who helped bring Abhisit to power conspired in the coup and in removing successive governments loyal to Thaksin, through court orders.

The government denies this, while critics of Thaksin say he was authoritarian and corrupt.

Abhisit’s government has faced down two votes of no confidence since 2009.  Panitan says he is confident it can do so again.

"This is not the first time that these issues have been submitted," he said. "In the last few months the government successfully defended many of the issues.  Some of the issues are quite old.  For example, the handling of demonstrators in the last year or two.  It has been already submitted in the parliamentary system and the government also already passed the  [censure] motion once already on this issue."

The Red Shirts are gathering regularly to pressure the government.  On Saturday, they held their largest demonstration since last year's violence.

Meanwhile, nationalist protesters who demonstrated to remove Thaksin have turned against Abhisit, accusing him of being soft in a territorial dispute with Cambodia.  Known as the Yellow Shirts, they are also holding regular protests against the government.

Will he survive?


Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a visiting professor of Southeast Asia studies at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, says that despite the growing pressures, Abhisit’s government is likely to survive the vote if its coalition partners stick with his ruling Democrat party.

"It depends on whether the backers will pull the plug on Abhisit or not," he said. "So far, they don't have a better solution, a better arrangement than Abhisit.  So, I think that the government will be weakened by this censure debate. But, the coalition partners enjoy having the pie, access to the pie and the backers - the military, the army, the palace, and others - are still lining up behind Abhisit, not because he's the best that they want, but because they don't have anyone better."

The government says it will soon announce an election date, expected around June.

Opinion polls indicate no one party has enough support to win a clear majority and a coalition government is likely.

But analysts say the election will not likely heal Thailand's deep divisions and that, unless opposition forces are somewhat accommodated, the country could see further polarization or even a resumption of clashes.  

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs