Thai gov’t faces no confidence vote amid protests, pandemic

Bangkok, Aug 31 (EFE).- Thai Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha and five of his ministers face a vote of no confidence in parliament that began Tuesday and will end Saturday amid a wave of anti-government protests in the country.

The motion, presented by several opposition parties, has no prospect of succeeding, since the government coalition holds the lower house majority, but the debate will address issues such as the economic crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic management and alleged government irregularities.

The motion will take place amid tensions over demonstrations that throughout the month have taken place in Bangkok calling on Prayut’s resignation for his management before Covid-19, amid demands to reform the country, including the army and the monarchy.

“As the world prepares to face the worst pandemic in history, the leaders of the Thai government are unable to understand and assess the situation of the pandemic and, consequently, they fail to protect the population from the current crisis,” Pheu Thai party leader Sompong Amornvivat said Tuesday during the debate.

The government defended its management and said it would be able to vaccinate 70 percent of its population by late 2021.

“The government has managed the budgets adequately during the pandemic (…) all processes have been scrutinized and monitored by the relevant public bodies,” Prayut said during the parliamentary debate.

Thailand was one of the countries that best responded to the Covid-19 pandemic through early measures such as closing borders and implementing social, as well as movement restrictions and economic activity.

However, this strategy accentuated the economic crisis the country had been suffering since before the pandemic and the new coronavirus delta variant, which is more contagious than previous ones and has triggered infections and deaths in recent months.

The country went from having an average of 60 cases a day at the end of March to more than 20,000 in mid-August, although numbers are slowly declining due to restrictions, according to official data.

Authorities have also been criticized for the management of the vaccines, including a contract signed with Siam Bioscience, a company belonging to King Vajiralongkorn, for the production of British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca’s vaccines.

The opposition said Siam Bioscience had no previous experience manufacturing vaccines and that authorities have placed excessive confidence in the AstraZeneca vaccine and China’s Sinovac.

So far, only 9.5 percent of the population has been vaccinated with the full dosage, according to figures from English scientific online publication Our World in Data.

Amid the worst moment of the pandemic, two protest leaders – Sombat Boonngam-anong and Nattawut Saikuar – announced they would demonstrate daily against the government starting Thursday until Prayut resigns.

Dozens have been injured and arrested in recent weeks due to clashes between police and anti-government protesters. EFE


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