Bangkok Government Survives No-Confidence Vote

BANGKOK (AP) - The three-month-old government of Prime Minister
Abhisit Vejjajiva survived a no-confidence vote Saturday following
two days of opposition attacks in Parliament.

Abhisit and five of his Cabinet ministers won by comfortable
margins, with the prime minister tallying 246-176 votes with 12
abstentions in the House of Representatives.

The opposition Phuea Thai Party, which supports ousted Prime
Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, initiated the no-confidence motion but
failed to deliver any knock-out punches as it criticized the
government for poor handling of the economy and other issues.

Abhisit's Democrat Party controls a majority ruling coalition in
the lower house.

Also coming under fire were Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanich
and his deputy, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya and Interior
Minister Chavarat Chanveerakul and his deputy.

Opposition members denounced the foreign minister Friday as
unfit to serve in government because he supported unruly street
demonstrations that culminated in last year's siege of Bangkok's
airports.

Thailand was destabilized last year by months of protests by
both supporters and opponents of Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006
military coup for alleged corruption and abuse of power.

Friday's debate focused on Kasit, a vocal supporter of the
anti-Thaksin protesters whose actions helped oust previous
pro-Thaksin governments.

"He is a divisive figure who was part of a movement that has
damaged the country's reputation," opposition lawmaker Somkid
Balthaisong said during the televised debate. "He has no place in
the government."

Kasit spoke on several occasions at rallies by the protesters,
who occupied the prime minister's office compound for three months
and shut down Bangkok's two airports for a week.

He later hailed the airport blockade - which stranded more than
250,000 travelers - as an "innovation in public protests."

The government also faced criticism over its management of the
economy.

Chalerm Yoobamrung, leading the debate for Phuea Thai, accused
Abhisit and his economic team of lacking the experience and ability
to steer the economy through the global financial turmoil.

The economy's performance in the first quarter is expected to be
equal to or worse than the fourth quarter of last year, when it
contracted 4.3 percent.

Abhisit's government rose to power after a court ruled that the
previous pro-Thaksin ruling party was guilty of election fraud.

Critics say the court ruling and Abhisit's appointment followed
pressure from the military and other unelected groups.

Thaksin, who remains popular in the countryside, fled into exile
last year and has been convicted in absentia of violating a
conflict of interest law.

His supporters plan to hold a rally next Thursday at the prime
minister's office, the site of last year's three-month siege by
their rivals.


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