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

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

Studies point to possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees 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.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More