BANGKOK Nov 28 Thailand's government survived a
no-confidence vote on Wednesday, days after clashes in Bangkok
between protesters and riot police in the largest demonstration
against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's 16-month-old
Yingluck has enjoyed a period of stability after years of
upheaval and her government's better-than-expected performance
in the debate, coupled with the low turnout for Saturday's
protest which quickly fizzled out, strengthen her leadership
while offering a reminder of Thailand's stubborn political
Her Puea Thai Party and coalition partners dominate the
lower house and comfortably survived the televised, three-day
debate during which the opposition focused on a rice
intervention scheme that it says is riddled with corruption.
"We incurred losses trying to help Thailand's poor farmers
but the scheme is transparent," Yingluck said.
The opposition accused the government of allowing private
companies with ties to it to benefit from the policy.
"The scheme allows the government to monopolise the sale of
rice. Corruption is just one side-effect of a flawed scheme,"
said opposition leader and former premier Abhisit Vejjajiva.
The opposition is still threatening to lodge a complaint
with the National Anti-Corruption Commission over the rice
policy but, after seeing off the protesters and defeating the
censure motion, the government can brush it off, analysts said.
"Accusations of foul play will keep the government
off-balance but won't hurt it," said Siripan Nogsuan, a
political analyst at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.
After the early clashes, Saturday's rally by the royalist
Pitak Siam group petered out by evening and the authorities
lifted special security regulations brought in to control it.
Some 20,000 protesters had accused Yingluck of being a
puppet for her brother, fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin
Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006 and lives
in Dubai to avoid a jail sentence handed down for abuse of power
in 2008. He claims the charges were politically motivated.
"Our country is in turmoil because your government is unable
to separate personal matters from national ones," said Abhisit,
referring to an amnesty plan the opposition says is designed to
help Thaksin come home without serving time in jail.
Thaksin, a billionaire former telecoms tycoon, remains a
divisive figure, reviled as corrupt and authoritarian by the
elite and revered as a populist hero by the poor. He has been a
focal point of protests since 2005, accused by royalists of
trying undermine Thailand's popular King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
"It's simply not over and the royalist groups will organise
another protest but they need to win the public over or they
will smell defeat again," said Kan Yuenyong, director of Siam
Intelligence Unit (SIU), a private think tank in Bangkok.
In 2008, yellow-shirted members of the People's Alliance for
Democracy (PAD) seized government offices, occupied Bangkok's
main airports for eight days and helped bring down two
pro-Thaksin prime ministers.
But its influence has waned amid internal splits and a loss
of support, and the group distanced itself from Saturday's
On Monday Boonlert Kaewprasit, a former general, quit as
leader of Pitak Siam after the failure of the rally.
The military top brass had shown no sign of supporting him.
"The military can be persuaded to intervene but right now it
is not worth the risk," said analyst Siripan.