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Embattled Yingluck survives poll

By Agencies in Bangkok, Thailand | China Daily | Updated: 2013-11-29 07:03

Prime minister begs demonstrators to negotiate end to country's crisis

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra breezed through a no-confidence vote in Parliament on Thursday as confusion emerged over the goals of an anti-government protest movement massing at government offices.

Waving multicolored flags, tooting on whistles and backing up traffic, hundreds of protesters marched for a fourth day, showing up at the defense and education ministries and the national police headquarters. But their numbers appeared to have dwindled since the beginning of the week.

The anti-government campaign began last month after Yingluck's ruling Puea Thai Party tried to pass an amnesty bill that critics said was designed to absolve her bother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, of a 2008 graft conviction.

Though the bid to push the amnesty through Parliament was dropped, Thaksin's enemies, broadly aligned with Bangkok's royalist civilian and military elite, are now trying to oust his sister's government.

But in a sign that support for the protest could be ebbing, police spokesman Piya Uthayo said the "main force" of anti-government protesters in Bangkok was now less than 15,000, down from at least 100,000 on Sunday, though the total fluctuated through the day and into the evening.

Yingluck begged protesters on Thursday to call off their sustained demonstrations and negotiate an end to the nation's latest crisis.

"Please call off the protests for the country's peace," said Yingluck, who is facing the biggest challenge to her rule since taking office in 2011. "I'm begging you ... because this doesn't make the situation any better," she said just before the no-confidence vote on Thursday.

"The government doesn't want to enter into any political games because we believe it will cause the economy to deteriorate," Yingluck said.

Protesters, most of them sympathetic to the opposition Democrat Party, have taken over or occupied several ministry buildings, which Yingluck said failed to shut down the government but had created the potential for violence.

Yingluck has been extremely reluctant to use force to evict the protesters for fear of escalating the conflict and sparking bloodshed, which would harm investor confidence and the lucrative tourism industry.

The protests are led by former Democrat Party lawmaker Suthep Thaugsuban, who has already rejected negotiations.

'Thaksin puppet'

His followers have vowed to bring down Yingluck's government, accusing her of being a puppet of Thaksin.

Embattled Yingluck survives poll

They also refuse to recognize the legitimacy of the elections that brought Yingluck to power, claiming that her Pheu Thai Party won a landslide victory with Thaksin's money.

Yingluck's no-confidence victory was no surprise, given her party's commanding majority in parliament. But it's unlikely to defuse tensions or end the biggest anti-government protests since deadly political unrest three years ago.

She needed more than half, or 246 votes, of the 492 Lower House votes to prevail. She won 297, with 134 against.

Her party and its coalition partners faced a three-day debate during which the Democrat Party grilled Yingluck on a $100 million water management project and financially troubled government rice intervention plan.

The demonstrators accuse Yingluck of being an illegitimate proxy for Thaksin, her billionaire brother and a populist hero of the rural poor who was ousted in a 2006 military coup.

Despite fleeing into exile to dodge a jail sentence for abuse of power in 2008, former telecommunications mogul Thaksin remains a force in Thai politics, sometimes holding Cabinet meetings via Skype from his villa in Dubai.

Reuters - AP

 Embattled Yingluck survives poll

Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra thanks members of her Cabinet after winning a no-confidence vote at Parliament in Bangkok on Thursday. Chaiwat Subprasom / Reuters

(China Daily 11/29/2013 page12)

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