| 30 May 2024, Thursday |

Thai PM faces parliamentary grilling as protests persist

On Tuesday, Thai MPs began debating Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-censure, ocha’s as opponents prepared to escalate street protests over his government’s handling of the COVID-19 situation.

The political opposition accuses the former army leader and five of his cabinet ministers of corruption, economic mismanagement, and botching the coronavirus response, including deputy prime minister and health minister Anutin Charnvirakul.

Prayuth has weathered two previous censure motions and is expected to survive a no confidence vote scheduled for Saturday, owing to his coalition’s clear parliamentary majority.

The proposal, however, is unlikely to placate the youth-led anti-government groups that demanded Prayuth’s resignation last year and have reawakened support from Thais enraged by lockdowns, record COVID-19 deaths, and a bungled vaccination deployment.

While the opposition grilled Prayuth in parliament, demonstrators have threatened widespread rallies.

In opening the debate, opposition leader Sompong Amornwiwat of the Pheu Thai Party remarked, “Every seven minutes a Thai citizen perished because of the bungled management of the COVID-19 incident.”

“There are economic losses of 8 billion baht ($247.60 million) per day from a lack of management and lockdown measures that have failed.”

Prayuth told parliament the government was always working for public interest.

“For those who suffered, I have introduced assisting measures,” he said.

“Domestic spending, investment, and healthcare infrastructure have all been expanded by the administration. I’d say look again if you told me I had nothing to show for my performance.”

Prayuth, a staunch royalist, seized power in a 2014 military coup and was re-elected prime minister in 2019, making him Thailand’s longest-serving leader since the end of the Cold War.

Protests against him, which are illegal due to coronavirus limitations, have gained traction in recent weeks, despite regular, often violent battles with police, who have used tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannon to quell the unrest.

  • Reuters