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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs