Thailand’s main opposition party on Tuesday kicked off a censure debate on the performance of embattled Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatara and two other senior officials.
The no-confidence motion comes as the government is under attack from street protesters. They have occupied portions of the Finance Ministry to try and paralyze the administration and force the dissolution of parliament. Protesters have reportedly left the Foreign Ministry which had also been occupied on Monday.
One of the protest leaders is Suthep Thaugsuban, a former senior member of the opposition Democrat Party that is censuring the government for alleged failure to stop corruption. Mr Suthep, who has headquartered himself at the occupied Budget Bureau, resigned from parliament to head the demonstrations.
The debate will target Ms Yingluck, the younger sister of fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. It will also focus on Deputy Prime Minister Plodprasop Suraswadi and Interior Minister Charupong Ruangsuwan.
Ms Yingluck’s government has been the target of mass protests in Bangkok since her coalition pushed a bill to pardon Mr Thaksin of a corruption conviction, and give amnesty to thousands of other politically related cases between 2004-13. The bill was rejected by the Senate.
One of the main topics of the censure debate is the government’s rice-subsidy scheme that pays farmers fixed prices for their crop far above market rates. The scheme cost the government an estimated 400 billion baht (12.6 billion dollars) over the past two fiscal years. The Democrats say it is riddled with corrupt practices resulting from the government’s monopoly over the rice industry.
The programme was a key campaign promise used by Ms Yingluck’s party to win votes from farmers in the July 2011 general election. The ruling coalition controls 300 of the 500 seats in parliament. The no-confidence motion is expected to be defeated when a vote is cast on Thursday.
Meanwhile protesters in Thailand forced the closure of several government ministries again on Tuesday and vowed to take control of state offices nationwide in a bid to oust Prime Minister Yingluck. Thousands of protesters fanned out to new targets in Bangkok emboldened by their takeover on Monday earlier of the Finance Ministry, where crowds stormed its gates and then camped out overnight. It was closed on Tuesday along with the transport, agriculture and tourism ministries.
Outside the Interior Ministry, thousands of protesters surrounded the building and vowed to spend the night. Security locked themselves behind the ministry’s gates, with employees still inside.