Thai premier survives no-confidence vote

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By THANYARAT DOKSONE and TODD PITMAN, Associated Press

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand's embattled prime minister easily survived a no-confidence vote in parliament on Thursday, as a wave of simmering protests aimed at bringing down her government entered a fifth day.

Lawmakers in Bangkok voted 297 to 134 against unseating Yingluck Shinawatra. The motion never had a chance of succeeding, though, because her party and its allies hold a comfortable majority in the House of Representatives.

Yingluck came to power in a popular vote two and a half years ago, but she is now facing a wave of protests by opponents who claim she is a puppet of her brother Thaksin Shinawatra — a former prime minister who was ousted in a 2006 military coup.

The protests are being led by Suthep Thaugsuban, a 64-year-old former lawmaker and deputy premier who vowed this week to topple Yingluck by taking over every government ministry.

That bid has largely failed so far. In a city of 10 million people, the demonstrators appeared to number only in the tens of thousands over the last few days — far less than the 100,000-plus mustered when they began Sunday. The numbers indicate they are unlikely to bring down the government on their own without more popular support, or judicial or military intervention.

But Suthep's supporters occupy the Ministry of Finance are now holed up in a sprawling government office complex which they camped out in overnight.

"We like peaceful methods," Suthep told reporters on Wednesday, his voice hoarse from speaking above the crowd's roar. But he added, "If we don't succeed, then I am prepared to die in the battlefield."

"The people will quit only when the state power is in their hands," he said. "There will be no negotiation."

The protests represent the biggest threat yet to Yingluck's administration, and they have raised fears of fresh political violence in the divided Southeast Asian nation. So far they have been peaceful.

Yingluck has repeatedly said she wants to avert violence and offered to negotiate an end to the crisis.

Security forces have not even fired tear gas to prevent protesters from forcing the closure of multiple government offices. A warrant was issued for Suthep's arrest, but he has ignored it.

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