Thai govt survives confidence vote amidst political uncertainty

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Bangkok, Jun 27 (UNI) Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej's ruling coalition expectedly beat back a no-confidence vote today after three days of opposition censure but the government continues to remain in the eye of a political storm.

With its two-thirds majority in the 480-member lower house of Parliament, the People's Power Party (PPP)-led government prevailed in the censure motion initiated by the sole opposition Democrat Party.

Political observers noted that the parliamentary victory would not make things easier for Mr Samak and the PPP, accused of acting as a nominee for former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and compromising Thailand's territorial integrity.

An influential civil society coalition which mobilised mass street protests against Mr Thaksin, leading to his ouster in the September 2006 coup by the armed forces, has rallied another mass protest for over the past month to force Mr Samak to quit.

The People's Alliance for Democracy's (PAD) street campaign had forced the government to agree to a censure debate sought by the opposition. The PAD was also seen as having pressurised the government into giving up its plan to unilaterally amend the 2007 Constitution drafted by an assembly nominated by its army-appointed predecessor.

Although the censure debate was focussed on mismanagement of governance and the economy, a recent controversial foreign policy decision by the government has become a rallying issue for its opponents.

Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama has been under fire from both the PAD and the Democrat Party for compromising national sovereignty by approving a Cambodian application for UN recognition for a disputed 900-year-old Hindu temple on the northeast Thai-Cambodia border.

The Preah Vihar temple, claimed by both countries during French colonial rule in Cambodia, was awarded to Cambodia by the International Court of Justice in 1962. Bangkok and Phnom Penh are still negotiating claims to a slice of territory adjoining the temple and the issue evokes nationalistic passions in Thailand.

The PAD alleges that the Thai foreign minister, who was legal adviser to Mr Thaksin, endorsed Cambodia's application to register Preah Vihar as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in exchange for approval of big business investments by Mr Thaksin in Cambodia.

UNI XC SKB BD1508

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