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.  


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 Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
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.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs