Yingluck Shinawatra

Yingluck Shinawatra rides out Thai protests

Yingluck defends rice scheme that was focus of opposition corruption attacks

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 November, 2012, 4:26am

Thailand's government survived a no-confidence vote, days after clashes between protesters and riot police in the largest demonstration against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's 16-month-old administration.

Yingluck has enjoyed a period of stability after years of upheaval and her government's better-than-expected performance in the debate, coupled with the low turnout for Saturday's protest which quickly fizzled out, strengthen her leadership while offering a reminder of Thailand's stubborn political divisions.

Her Puea Thai Party and coalition partners dominate the lower house and comfortably survived the three-day debate during which the opposition focused on a rice intervention scheme that it says is corrupt.

"We incurred losses trying to help farmers but the scheme is transparent," Yingluck said.

The opposition accused the government of allowing private firms to benefit from the policy.

"The scheme allows the government to monopolise the sale of rice. Corruption is just one side effect of a flawed scheme," said opposition leader and former premier Abhisit Vejjajiva.

After the early clashes, Saturday's rally by the royalist Pitak Siam group petered out by evening and the authorities lifted regulations brought in to control it.

Some 20,000 protesters had accused Yingluck of being a puppet for her brother, fugitive former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006 and lives in Dubai to avoid a jail sentence handed down for abuse of power in 2008.

In 2008, yellow-shirted members of the People's Alliance for Democracy seized government offices, occupied Bangkok's main airports for eight days and helped bring down two pro-Thaksin prime ministers.

But its influence has waned due to internal splits and a loss of support.

The group distanced itself from Saturday's protest.

On Monday Boonlert Kaewprasit, a former general, quit as leader of Pitak Siam after the failure of the rally. Military heads did not support him.