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March 17, 2009

Thai govt to face censure debate Thursday

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva government agreed to attend a censure debate on Thursday and Friday with a subsequent vote of confidence scheduled for Saturday, Thai News Agency quoted chief government whip Chinavorn Boonyakiat as saying Monday.

The Democrat-led coalition government agreed to House Speaker Chai Chidchob's suggestion that the no-confidence motion, earlier lodged by the Puea Thai Party-led Opposition against Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and some of his cabinet members, should be moved up a week earlier than planned, Chinavorn said.

The censure debate had been tentatively set for March 26 and March 27, but the House speaker had suggested that it should be scheduled instead for the approaching Thursday and Friday and that the vote of confidence should be cast the following day.

The chief government whip said a 10-person working group will be set up to give assistance to the premier and the other targeted ministers, to gather facts and figures which they may use to counter Opposition charges. The team will begin work on Wednesday.

Chief opposition whip Witthaya Buranasiri said he had not found bringing the censure date closer a surprise, and suggested the House Speaker was ‘obviously’ trying to favour the government side.

Chalerm Yubamrung, head of the Puea Thai Party MPs, will lead the two-day censure debate in parliament.

Meanwhile, Abhisit declined to respond to criticisms that his government had apparently tried to negate an imminent, concerted campaign by the Opposition and Red Shirt protesters who might otherwise have put even more pressure on his administration had the censure bid been a week later as planned.

Red-shirted protesters have apparently stepped-up efforts to pressure the government, following repeated phone-in speeches delivered by convicted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra from various overseas locations.

The premier contended that the bringing-forward of the censure dates had been proposed by the House Speaker, not his government which he said was by no means playing games. It was expected that many more Red Shirt protesters would have taken to the streets outside parliament had the censure debate taken place as planned one week later.

Abhisit added that the Democrat members in his cabinet as well as other Democrat MPs will prepare themselves for the censure debate from Tuesday, adding that his planned official visit to Chon Buri province next week would be postponed due to the censure debate being brought forward.

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