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March 12, 2009

Thai opposition moves to impeach prime minister
Thailand’s opposition filed an impeachment motion against Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva Wednesday, accusing him of abusing his power and siding with protesters who hijacked Bangkok's airports.

The move by the Puea Thai party, which is allied to fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, is the latest twist in a bitter political dogfight that has divided the kingdom since Thaksin was toppled in a 2006 coup.

The motion has little chance of success but the party said it was a necessary legal prelude to a parliamentary no-confidence motion that it intends to submit against Abhisit and other ministers on Thursday.

"Our impeachment motion is filed in line with the (constitutional) charter that requires an impeachment motion ahead of a censure debate," party spokesman Pormpong Nopparit told AFP.

The motion was signed by 158 Puea Thai lawmakers and levels seven charges including corruption and mismanagement against British-born Abhisit, the leader of the ruling Democrat party.

It accuses Abhisit of offering "moral support" to royalist protesters who launched a week-long blockade of Bangkok's airports in November-December last year in their bid to bring down the previous pro-Thaksin government.

The motion will now be forwarded to Thailand's national counter-corruption commission, which must decide within 15 days whether to pass it on to the Senate, or upper house of parliament, for a vote.

The opposition would struggle to get the vote through the Senate, since almost half of the Senate's members were appointed by the junta that ruled Thailand for more than a year after the putsch against Thaksin.

Abhisit brushed off the impeachment attempt.

"I have not yet seen the motion but I don't think there is any problem. I am ready to explain and confident that I can clarify all allegations," he told reporters.

The occupation of Bangkok's two airports left hundreds of thousands of visitors stranded, severely dented the kingdom's tourist-friendly image and cost the economy billions of dollars.

The siege ended in December after the constitutional court disbanded the Thaksin-supporting People Power Party -- the predecessor to Puea Thai -- which had governed since winning the post-coup elections a year earlier.

Abhisit was named prime minister in a parliamentary vote on December 15, angering Thaksin supporters who have since held a series of protests calling for snap elections.

The opposition said it planned to file the no-confidence motion in the lower house of parliament on Thursday, but is unlikely to find enough support to challenge Abhisit there either.
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