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Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva survives no-confidence vote

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has survived a parliamentary no-confidence vote over his handling of protests by anti-government "Red Shirts". Vejjajiva was accused of violating human rights in the standoff between protesters and troops.

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AFP - Thailand's prime minister easily survived a parliamentary no-confidence vote Wednesday over his handling of deadly protests by anti-government "Red Shirts".

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has been accused by his political opponents of violating human rights in the tense standoff between protesters and armed troops, who fired live rounds during several confrontations in the capital.

But thanks to his ruling coalition's majority in the lower house, the censure motion submitted by the opposition was rejected by 246 votes to 186, said House Speaker Chai Chidchob.

The Red Shirts' rally, broken up on May 19 in an army assault on their vast encampment in the retail heart of Bangkok, sparked outbreaks of violence that have left 89 people dead, mostly civilians, and nearly 1,900 injured.

The Red Shirts were campaigning for elections they hoped would oust the government, which they view as undemocratic because it came to power with the backing of the army after a court ruling threw out the previous administration.

Deputy premier Suthep Thaugsuban, reviled by many protesters because he oversaw an earlier deadly crackdown on April 10, also survived a no-confidence vote, along with the foreign, finance, interior and transport ministers.

Abhisit has defended the government's handling of the two months of protests in Bangkok, which dealt a heavy blow to Thailand's key tourism sector, blaming "terrorists" for inciting unrest.

"The government and army had no intention to attack people," the British-born, Oxford-educated head of the establishment Democrat Party told reporters on Monday ahead of the two-day censure debate in parliament.

"What had happened was there was a militia group which attacked the military and that led to clashes. We will explain this fact and we show our sincerity by allowing an independent committee to investigate" the events, he added.

Abhisit, who does not have to face voters until the end of next year, had proposed November elections in a bid to end the protests, but he said over the weekend that it would now be "difficult" to have polls this year.

Protest leaders surrendered after the army stormed their rally base but enraged demonstrators set fire to dozens of major buildings in the capital.

The government on Saturday lifted a night-time curfew imposed 10 days earlier, saying the situation was returning to normal, but it left in place emergency rule across more than one-third of the country, including Bangkok.

Lawyers for Thaksin Shinawatra, the fugitive former premier accused by the government of bankrolling the protests and inciting unrest, said Monday they had hired an international war crimes expert to help investigate the crackdown.

A Thai court last week approved an arrest warrant on terrorism for Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup and lives overseas to avoid a jail term imposed in absentia for corruption.
  

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