Thai Prime Minister Survives No Confidence Vote as Red Shirts Wait In The Wings

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Thailand’s Prime Minister and her ruling government today survived a ‘no confidence’ vote in Parliament with expected ease, despite protests which rage across the country.

Her Pheu Thai Party easily carried the vote with a majority of 297 votes to 134 a result which surprised few. Her party carries with it the ‘Red Shirt’ faction which includes the rural poor.

They have benefited most from the years of the Shinawatra led country.

They first flocked to the banner of her elder brother Thaksin Shinawatra, who rode to power on populist policies which included a health care scheme for the poor and easy loans.

And they followed Yingluck’s Pheu Thai Party after her elder brother was convicted of corruption and fled in exile to Dubai.

The recent protests led by former Democratic Deputy leader Suthep Thaugsuban have caused chaos in the Thai capital and have also spread to the south of Thailand where the holiday beaches are, with occupations of ministries in Bangkok and provincial government buildings in the south.

The protesters want rid of the Shinawatras. Thaksin, they believe,  is still controlling the country by mobile phone and skype from Dubai and other destinations on his travels – and they want an end to democracy – at least the Thai style.  They no longer want elected representatives but a government of ‘known good people’ in Thailand.

The Internal Security Act has been invoked and a warrant has been issued for the arrest of Suthep Thuagsuban but the government seems  in no hurry to enforce it.

The government hopes that the protesters, who were called onto the streets after the government tried to pass through an Amnesty Bill which would allow Thaksin Shinawatra to come back, will run out of steam.
But while the protesters were blocking government centres in Bangkok,  in the north east of the city in Ramkhamheang  thousands of pro-government red shirts were camped out in a massive sports stadium – getting bored. They say they plan to take to the streets themselves at the weekend.

Suthep is adamant that the government must fall. He is urging peaceful demonstrations with flowers and whistle blowing. Yingluck Shinawatra is insistent that she is staying.

“I think they have expressed their political stand enough,” she said.

While today’s vote was expected, Thailand’s economy has suffered under the present government.  The expected growth has dropped from 5-6% down to 1%.  The baht has fallen against the dollar and now the Bank of Thailand is dropping interest rates.

The government has been accused of widespread corruption.  While successive governments have they have in the main done so while the economy continued to improve.

Much of the protest can be sourced to the opposition democrats and pro-monarchy yellow shirts. Just how strong or weak that protest is will play itself out over the next few days – but protests like this have a history of turning nasty and 29 countries have warned about travel to Thailand.

London Evening Standard

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