Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and five cabinet ministers on Wednesday survived a no-confidence motion on charges of using excessive force in the suppression of protests in Bangkok that left 89 dead.
The Lower House voted 246-186 in favour of Abhisit, with 11 abstentions and 21 no votes. Deputy Prime Minster Suthep Thaugsuban, who is in charge of security, survived with a 245 to 187 vote. Four ministers accused of corruption also survived. Abhisit and Suthep were the main targets of the two-day censure debate in the wake of the May 19 crackdown on protests that had paralyzed parts of Bangkok for two months. It led to bloody street battles that claimed up to 89 dead and left 1,884 injured, according to government figures.
Puea Thai opposition party accused Abhisit and Suthep of inciting troops to use excessive force against the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship protestors on April 10 and May 13-19.
The party highlighted the controversial deaths of six protesters whose bodies were found in a Buddhist temple that had been designated a “safety zone” for demonstrators fleeing the crackdown.
According to witnesses, people dressed in military uniforms fired on thousands of people hiding in the temple from an overhead mass transit system, killing at least six people, while other protestors were setting fire to a nearby shopping mall.
Mr. Abhisit argued that autopsy results indicated that at least four of the dead had been shot at horizontal angles. The government is setting up an independent committee to investigate the six deaths and other alleged abuses.
The censure debate has arguably exacerbated the deep political divide, which has pitted the establishment against those loyal to fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup.
Mr. Thaksin was a ringleader and financier of the protest movement that began protesting in Bangkok on March 12, calling on Mr. Abhisit to dissolve parliament and hold new elections.
Mr. Abhisit vowed to pursue national reconciliation to heal some of the deep rifts in Thai society. But his government has thus far been more active in arresting UDD leaders and charging them with serious crimes such as terrorism and attempting to undermine the monarchy.
“You talk about reconciliation but your heart is like a knife, slitting others throats,” Puea Thai legislator Jatuporn Prompan said during the censure debate.
Mr. Jatuporn, one of the protest leaders, was expected to surrender himself for arrest Wednesday.
The censure motion had sought the impeachment of Mr. Abhisit, Mr. Suthep, Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, Interior Minister Chavarat Charnvirakul and Transport Minister Sopon Zarum.
Mr. Abhisit, leader of the Democrat Party, heads a coalition government that includes six parties.