Asia

Thai PM Prayut faces no-confidence vote as coronavirus strategy fumbles

BANGKOK (BLOOMBERG) – Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will face a no-confidence vote in Parliament as the opposition parties and pro-democracy groups ratchet up pressure on his government as it struggles to contain one of the worst Covid-19 outbreaks in the region.

The opposition parties submitted a motion for censure debates and no-confidence votes on Monday (Aug 16) against Mr Prayut and five other ministers, including Deputy Premier Anutin Charnvirakul, who heads the health ministry.

The Parliament may take up the votes later this month or early September, according to House Speaker Chuan Leekpai.

Thailand is reeling under the worst phase of Covid-19 outbreak to hit the nation so far, forcing Mr Prayut to order near-lockdown measures in large swathes of the country.

The containment measures are crippling businesses and livelihood of more than 40 per cent of the population, and triggered near-daily street protests calling for Mr Prayut’s ouster.

While Mr Prayut is likely to survive the third no-confidence vote against him since the 2019 general elections, the opposition is seeking to expose his government’s failure to contain the outbreak quickly and accelerate a vaccination drive that has seen only 7 per cent of the nation’s 70 million population fully inoculated.

Thailand, like many of its Southeast Asian peers, has seen a relentless surge in Covid-19 cases with the emergence of the more infectious Delta variant. The worsening outbreak has overwhelmed the public health system, with more than 210,000 active cases and some 5,600 patients in critical condition.

The pro-democracy protest movement, which has been demanding Mr Prayut’s resignation for more than a year, has been met with rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons as authorities say the protesters are breaking rules on large gatherings and other containment measures.

The crackdown has failed to deter protesters, who are hitting the streets again this week.

The movement, which also calls for a constitutional overhaul and monarchy reform, has gained traction in recent weeks with more groups frustrated with the government’s handling of the outbreaks and vaccine rollout joining the demonstrations.

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