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Thai Government Defeats No-Confidence Motion - 2002-05-28

Thailand's coalition government has easily defeated a no-confidence motion. But political observers worry that Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is not fully committed to fighting corruption.

Thaksin Shinawatra's government used its parliamentary majority to defeat an opposition no-confidence vote, after four days of debate.

Mr. Thaksin's three-party coalition, which has been in power for the past 14 months, holds more than 360 seats in the 500-seat House of Representatives.

During the debate, however, the opposition raised corruption allegations concerning eight cabinet ministers. As required by law, the charges have been passed to the National Counter Corruption Commission for further investigation.

The opposition targeted 15 of Mr. Thaksin's 35 cabinet ministers in the censure vote. Government spokesman Yongyut Tiyapairat has said the vote reflects the coalition's strength. "It indicates the unity of the government, or the coalition government, as we try to do the best thing for the country, and if something is not complete we try to [go about] by improving this," he said.

Under Thailand's 1997 reformist constitution, the opposition must be able to substantiate charges raised during debate on a censure motion.

Editor of media group The Nation, Thepchai Yong, said the new rules gave greater substance to the debate. "The debate represented a step forward for Thai democracy in the sense that the opposition did come up with a rather impressive performance in examining the government, and pointing out the flaws and discrepancies and irregularities and even corruption in many areas," he said.

However, Mr. Thepchai said the debate and vote raise doubts about the prime minister's commitment to fighting corruption and mismanagement. "I think a number of the cabinet members censured in the debate have had their credibility damaged. But there is strong doubt as to Thaksin's commitment to fighting corruption, trying to bring about better politics for the society," he said.

He said Mr. Thaksin may be forced to reshuffle his cabinet later if the corruption commission's investigation bears fruit.