Opposition seeks to censure Thai PM over crackdown

Opposition leaders moved to censure Thai PM for his handling of rioting.

Bangkok: Opposition leaders moved to censure Thailand`s Prime Minister on Monday for his handling of rioting and violence in Bangkok that left at least 85 people dead in clashes between demonstrators and troops over the past two months.

The shell-shocked capital took steps back toward normalcy on Monday, with schools and many offices open for the first time after a week of government-ordered holidays and following efforts to clean up parts of the capital barricaded by the Red Shirt protesters or burned in riots.

The motion to censure Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was introduced by the opposition Pheu Thai Party — allies of ousted former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, whom the Red Shirt protesters generally support. It also sought to censure several of his top Cabinet members, including the finance, foreign and transport ministers.

The motion was largely symbolic. It would require a vote in Parliament and was expected to be easily defeated because Abhisit and his supporters have more votes. Details on the specific reasons for the censure had not been released to the media.

The motion underscores a growing political and social rift that has opened up since the so-called Red Shirt protesters swept into Bangkok in March to begin two months of protests demanding Abhisit resign and call early elections.

The protesters moved into Bangkok`s central business district, building bamboo-and-tire barricades and controlling checkpoints that crippled one of the city`s most important shopping and tourism areas.

While the protests themselves were generally peaceful, several shootings and grenade attacks were blamed on a militant Red Shirt wing. Two military crackdowns led to deadly street clashes between soldiers and protesters.

All told, at least 88 people — mostly Red Shirts who were shot — died in protest-related violence, including 16 people killed in last Wednesday`s crackdown when soldiers stormed Red Shirt strongholds. Some protesters threw grenades and torched dozens of buildings as they fled in the worst political violence Bangkok has seen in decades.

All but one of the top Red Shirt leadership were in custody on Monday after the surrender of two more key figures, but the nation`s deputy prime minister warned that the movement behind the protests is still a threat.

Suthachai Yimprasert and Somyot Pruksakasaemsuk surrendered to police on Monday morning, the government`s Thai News Agency said, as Bangkok residents returned to work after a week of government-ordered holidays.

Thailand`s stock exchange, one of dozens of buildings torches as the protesters fled a military push on their main protest site last week, also reopened, along with schools, businesses and much of the transport system.

Bureau Report

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