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Thai Prime Minister Survives No-Confidence Vote

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva (R) and Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban look at a monitor displaying votes during a censure debate against the government and nine ministers, at parliament in Bangkok, March 19, 2011

Thailand Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva survived a no-confidence vote in Parliament Saturday brought on by opposition lawmakers. The prime minister's ruling coalition government will remain in office until elections later this year.

The speaker of the Thai parliament announced the results Saturday of voting with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva easily maintaining the support of his coalition partners.

Abhisit received 249 votes from the 467-seat parliament after four days of often heated debate. The government faced opposition charges of excessive use of force during last year’s anti-government protests in Bangkok.

Democrat Party member Barunaj Smutharak said the outcome reflected unity within the coalition government and calls by Thais for an end to deep social divisions marked by the protests.

Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij said the vote was a positive one for the government. "There weren’t any damaging allegations we were able to explain their concerns. I think the public were generally satisfied that the result of the vote today reflects public sentiment as to how the debate went, so I think all in all we’re pretty happy," said Korn.

But Kudeb Saikrajang, a member of the opposition Puea Thai Party, said while the final votes followed coalition lines, the nationally broadcast debate gave the opposition party an opportunity to present its policies ahead of elections scheduled for later this year.

"The main purpose of this debate for the Puea Thai Party is to send a message to the electorate or the supporters of the Party," said Kudeb. "So I think they have done a good job in debating even though the Democrats have good ground to defend themselves. Those who support the Puea Thai Party will keep on waiting for the election."

Kudeb says the opposition also hoped to win over middle class and urban voters.

This was the third censure motion that Abhisit has faced down. The Thai leader hopes to dissolve parliament in early May with general elections set for July. His Democrat Party will again face a party backed by the former leader Thaksin Shinawatra.