Thai Parliament begins PM censure debate

abhijit.jpg

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was accused on Tuesday of violating human rights during crackdowns on protesters as lawmakers kicked off a no-confidence debate against his government.

The opposition is seeking to use the parliamentary tussle to inflict political damage on Abhisit's administration ahead of elections expected by early July.

It alleges Abhisit abused his power during deadly military operations in April and May 2010 aimed at clearing "Red Shirt" opposition protesters from the streets of Bangkok.

Opposition whip Wittaya Buranasiri of the Puea Thai party said Abhisit's government had shown signs of corruption and failed in administrative, economic and foreign policies.

"This government also violated human rights and people's freedom," he told Parliament.

Abhisit said earlier on Tuesday that his government was confident it could refute such allegations.

The opposition is seen as having little chance of winning the no-confidence vote — which is expected on Friday or Saturday — because it lacks a majority in the lower house.

The Premier, who was named along with nine other ruling coalition ministers in the motion filed by Puea Thai legislators, has already faced down two such censure motions since 2009.

Thailand is deeply divided after more than 90 people died in clashes between the Army and demonstrators during last year's rallies by the anti-government "Red Shirts", its worst political violence in decades.

The Reds have held a number of large street rallies in the capital in the past few weeks. Tens of thousands of people joined the most recent gathering on Saturday to mark one year since the start of last year's bloody protests.

The mainly rural, working class reds are broadly loyal to fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006 and lives overseas to avoid a jail sentence for corruption imposed in absentia.

They view the government as undemocratic because it came to power in 2008 in a parliamentary vote after a court ruling threw out the previous administration — an accusation Abhisit's administration strongly denies.

Some Red Shirt leaders aim to stand as parliamentary candidates under Puea Thai in the upcoming election.

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