Prayut survives no-confidence vote as hundreds gather

Pro-democracy protesters rally as Parliament rejects motion against Thai PM, nine ministers

Photographs of Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha (far right) and members of his Cabinet being put up at an anti-government rally outside Parliament in Bangkok yesterday. The government's victory comes as pro-democracy protests returned after a lu
Photographs of Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha (far right) and members of his Cabinet being put up at an anti-government rally outside Parliament in Bangkok yesterday. The government's victory comes as pro-democracy protests returned after a lull brought on by a second outbreak of Covid-19.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BANGKOK • Hundreds of protesters gathered outside Thailand's Parliament after Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and nine ministers survived a parliamentary no-confidence motion yesterday following a four-day censure debate.

More than 1,000 protesters rallied outside the Parliament gates. Organisers gave assurances that the protest would not turn violent.

"We want a peaceful protest," protest leader Panusaya "Rung" Sithijirawattanakul told reporters after speaking to the police. "There is no reason for police to break up this demonstration."

Police deputy spokesman Kissana Pattanacharoen noted that the rallies were violating an emergency decree to control the coronavirus outbreak, saying: "Some 4,000 officers have been prepared."

The no-confidence motion against the Prime Minister was rejected by 272 lawmakers, while 206 supported it, according to a televised broadcast of the procedure in Parliament.

"The vote shows that there is confidence," said Mr Chuan Leekpai, president of the National Assembly, in announcing the result, which had been widely expected.

The defeat of the second no-confidence vote since the 2019 elections will allow Mr Prayut, a coup leader turned premier, to continue his government's efforts in limiting the impact of a second wave of Covid-19 infections that is threatening to derail a nascent economic recovery.

At the same time, pro-democracy groups are likely to intensify their street campaign for the Premier's resignation, a rewriting of the Constitution and monarchy reform.

During the four-day debate, opposition lawmakers took aim at what they say is a slow roll-out of the vaccine and at the government's economic policies, vowing to continue investigating.

Mr Pita Limjaroenrat, head of the Move Forward Party, told reporters after the vote: "We've opened a wound and now will pour salt on it."

The government's victory comes as pro-democracy protests returned after a lull brought on by a second outbreak of Covid-19.

Protesters gathered at Parliament on Friday in anticipation of the vote, with more demonstrations planned for yesterday.

Earlier this month, protesters demanding the release of activists scuffled with the police.

Mr Prayut, who overthrew an elected prime minister in 2014 and stayed in office after a 2019 election that his rivals said was badly flawed, had been expected to survive yesterday's vote due to his coalition government's majority in the Lower House.

Youth-led protests last year drew hundreds of thousands, occupying major commercial intersections in Bangkok and spreading to university campuses across the country.

Rally organisers set up a projection screen yesterday, which played out the events going on inside the building.

"The opposition MPs weren't able to speak about everything in the Parliament," said an 18-year-old protester who would give his name only as Petch.

"That's why we need to double down on the efforts to speak about how bad the government has been doing."

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 21, 2021, with the headline 'Prayut survives no-confidence vote as hundreds gather'. Subscribe