The Prime Minister of Thailand BANGKOK survived a no-confidence vote in parliament on Saturday amid allegations that his government mismanaged the economy, blocked the provision of COVID-19 vaccines, abused human rights and fueled corruption. Nine other ministers survived the vote.
He marked the second test of no confidence that Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s government has faced since taking office in July 2019, following a contested election after Prayuth took power in a 2014 coup as army chief. In February last year, he and five cabinet ministers easily defeated a no-confidence vote in the lower house.
In the latest move, the Prayuth government was also criticized for abusing its power to promote police officers and setting up a cyber unit to attack government critics on social media, among other complaints.
But a more serious claim was that Prayuth has deepened divisions in society by using the monarchy as a shield against criticism of his government.
A student-led protest movement has been campaigning since last year for Prayuth and his government to leave. They want the constitution to be changed to make it more democratic and the monarchy to be reformed to make it more accountable.
Prayuth’s biggest fault is that he does not understand the principles of constitutional monarchy, said Pita Limjaroenrat, leader of the opposition Move Forward party.
He used the monarchy to defend himself whenever he was criticized or opposed. This is a bad move, which makes him no longer qualify to be prime minister, he said.
His indictment refers to the application of Article 112 of the Penal Code, also known as the Majesty Law. Prayuth said in June last year that King Maha Vajiralongkorn had expressed his desire that the government not use the law against the slander of the monarchy to prosecute pro-democracy protesters.
Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, a popular politician who was forced out of parliament last year, was charged last month with leniency for claiming COVID-19 vaccine procurement governments were late and inadequate, and that there was potential favoritism awarding contracts
The criticism is related to the monarchy because most of the vaccines that Thailand has ordered will be produced by Siam Bioscience, a private Thai company owned by the king.
The monarchy is widely considered an inviolable foundation of Thai nationalism.
The Majority Law allows anyone to file a complaint with the police, with sentences of up to 15 years in prison for the offense. According to Thai human rights lawyers, at least 59 people, including some minors, were summoned by law between November and February.
Four prominent protesters including human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa, student leader Parit Chiwarak and political activists Somyos Prueksakasemsuk and Patiwat Saraiyaem were prosecuted under the law and charged with insurgency earlier this month. Their lawyer asked for bail, but the court denied it.
Prayuth said the debate in parliament was “a good opportunity for both sides to do something together for our country and our people. And I am ready to clarify any claims.”
Of the 487 lawmakers, 277 are part of the ruling coalition and 210 are with the opposition. The censorship motion would require a simple majority, or 244 votes, to pass. Prayuth received 272 votes, with 206 no-confidence votes and three silent.
On Saturday evening, about 1,000 protesters held a rally in front of the parliament building, where speakers took turns denouncing the voting results, saying they were awaiting their version of the censorship debate. Some in attendance had signs criticizing the government and the monarchy.
We knew what the outcome of the vote would be, but we are not upset because at least the opposition parties had a chance to uncover the wrongdoings of the government so that the whole country knew the truth, said Jaruwan Bungasaree, a 68- year protester.
They spoke out against corruption and did a good job, she added.
Police said earlier that they would deploy more than 10,000 officers in Bangkok over the weekend to control the crowds and maintain order. Police vehicles, including water cannon trucks, were taken to the parliament building.
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