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Thai leader survives confidence challenge

THAILAND'S three-month-old government survived a no-confidence vote, but analysts said it was likely to face continuing street demonstrations by loyalists of exiled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and five of his Cabinet ministers won by comfortable margins, with Abhisit tallying 246-176 ballots with 12 abstentions in the House of Representatives.

The opposition Phuea Thai Party, which supports Thaksin, initiated the no-confidence motion but failed to deliver any knockout punches as it criticized the government for poor handling of the economy and accused it of supporting the protesters who occupied Bangkok's airports last year.

"The prime minister thinks that the government has gained more stability, and it will help him work with more ease," government spokesman Panithan Wattanayakorn said after the vote.

Abhisit's Democrat Party controls a majority ruling coalition in the lower house.

The opposition said the vote was not surprising, but they were "satisfied" with their performance and "will continue to keep close watch on the government," said Phuea Thai Party spokesman Prompong Nopparit.

Chaiyan Chaiyaporn, a political scientist at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, said the opposition knew it would lose but used the debate to pave the way for more demonstrations by the so-called "red shirts," Thaksin supporters who accuse the government of coming to power through undemocratic means.

"It's likely that red-shirted protesters will continue to attack the government outside the Parliament," said Somchai Phagaphasvivat, a political scientist at Thammasat University. "But I think the public in general is still satisfied with Abhisit's administration."

Also under fire were Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanich and Interior Minister Chavarat Chanveerakul and their deputies.

The Opposition denounced Kasit on Friday as unfit to serve because he supported unruly street demonstrations that culminated in the seizure of Bangkok's two airports.


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