Asia-Pacific

Thai PM survives confidence vote over Bangkok protests

Abhisit Vejjajiva during a no-confidence debate in Bangkok, 1 June
Image caption Abhisit Vejjajiva has promised an investigation into the crackdown

Thailand's prime minister has easily survived a no-confidence vote tabled in parliament in the wake of recent deadly street protests.

Allies of Abhisit Vejjajiva backed the prime minister, who was facing censure over his handling of the protests.

A crackdown on the protests last month, which followed days of skirmishes, left some 80 people dead and 1,800 injured.

On Monday, a senior UN official called for an independent inquiry into the unrest.

During two days of often-heated debate, broadcast live on TV, the opposition Puea Thai Party charged that the army's use of live ammunition and armoured personnel carriers was excessive and resulted in civilian casualties.

The government has insisted it turned to the military as a last resort after all attempts to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the crisis in the preceding weeks failed.

Mr Abhisit has blamed "terrorists" within the red-shirts for the deaths, saying there had been "a militia group which attacked the military and that led to clashes".

Members of the lower house voted 246-186 to reject the no-confidence motion against Mr Abhisit, while others abstained. The government needed at least 238 votes to survive the motion.

Poll date

The government has promised a full inquiry into the events surrounding the protests. Mr Abhisit has promised he will "definitely not influence nor interfere with the investigation" in any way.

But the BBC's Rachel Harvey in Bangkok says that opposition politicians, many of whom actively supported the protests, are suspicious that any government-appointed panel will not be impartial.

The thousands of anti-government "red-shirt" protesters had been calling for Mr Abhisit to dissolve parliament immediately and call new elections.

They say the government - which came to power through a parliamentary deal rather than an election - is illegitimate.

The prime minister initially offered to hold elections in November but withdrew the offer when the red-shirts did not end their protests.

He has yet to set another date for polls, saying some stability has to be restored before balloting can be held.

The red-shirts are a loose coalition of left-wing activists, democracy campaigners and mainly rural supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

They had been protesting in Bangkok since 14 March, occupying the shopping district and forcing hotels and shops to close.

On 19 May, the stand-off turned violent as the government moved in to seal off the area and a renegade general who backed the protests was shot dead.