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Thai PM survives no-confidence measure in parliament amid opposition protests

From Kocha Olarn, CNN
November 28, 2013 -- Updated 0410 GMT (1210 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Thai PM Yingluck survives no-confidence motion in Thailand's parliament
  • Thousands of protesters have gathered outside government offices in recent days
  • They want Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's government to step down

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Bangkok, Thailand (CNN) -- Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra survived a no-confidence motion in parliament Thursday as opposition forces in the Asian nation tried to unseat the government amid ongoing street demonstrations.

The vote in parliament was 297 to 134. The opposition's chances of success appeared slim going into the vote, with Yingluck's party in the majority.

But after the vote, the real test was whether Yingluck would be able to appease the growing mass of protesters showing up at government buildings.

Even after the vote Thursday, protests were growing at the capital and beyond.

Protesters have been calling for an end to the government of Yingluck, sister of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, the telecommunications tycoon who was ousted in a 2006 coup.

Critics of the Thai prime minister accuse her of being a puppet of her older brother Thaksin, a deeply polarizing figure who was removed from power by the military while in New York in 2006. He has since lived in exile, except for a brief return in 2008, and was convicted by Thai courts for corruption and sentenced in absentia to two years in jail later that year.

An anti-government protester blows a whistle in front of Thai flags during a rally at Bangkok's Democracy Monument on Friday, one day after the embattled Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra survived a no-confidence vote in parliament. An anti-government protester blows a whistle in front of Thai flags during a rally at Bangkok's Democracy Monument on Friday, one day after the embattled Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra survived a no-confidence vote in parliament.
Thai protesters stage huge rallies
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Meanwhile, thousands of anti-government demonstrators have kept up pressure on the Thai government in recent days by surrounding official buildings amid the highest tensions the country has seen since deadly unrest three years ago.

Protesters in Bangkok stormed the finance ministry building Monday and turned into their secondary command center.

They planned to send groups to a range of other ministries and government offices around the capital Wednesday, said Akanat Promphan, a spokesman for the protesters.

Their objectives include the public health, labor, industry, social development and science ministries, as well as a government complex that houses multiple agencies, notably the Department of Special Investigation.

The number of demonstrators, led by the opposition Democrat Party, has declined from the huge gathering of roughly 100,000 people that assembled in Bangkok on Sunday.

Akanat said the protesters believe their current numbers to be in the tens of thousands, perhaps as many as 50,000. But authorities estimate the number of demonstrators to be around 10,000, said Lt. Gen. Paradon Patthanathabut of the National Security Council.

Certain sections of some roads in Bangkok have been shut down because of the number of protesters camping out and spilling into the street, Paradon said.

READ: What's behind Thailand protests?

Rising to a crescendo

More than three weeks of anti-government protests led by the Democrat Party rose to a crescendo with the big demonstration Sunday. The protesters have since taken their rallies directly to government offices, TV networks and military installations.

At various points during the past few days, demonstrators have surrounded the foreign ministry, as well as the agriculture and interior ministries.

Yingluck has said authorities will "absolutely not use violence" to disperse the demonstrators. But the situation is delicate after Thai police issued an arrest warrant against protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban.

Paradon of the National Security Council said Wednesday that authorities are "sticking with negotiation" and trying to persuade Suthep to hand himself in.

Authorities have extended the areas around Bangkok where police are enforcing an internal security law that restricts gatherings by demonstrators.

Political fault lines

The current protests have reanimated the tensions along Thailand's political fault lines -- Thaksin Shinawatra's mostly rural support base on one side, the Bangkok-based elite and middle classes on the other -- that left the country wracked with turbulence for four years after the 2006 coup, culminating in a 2010 army crackdown on Thaksin supporters that left more than 90 dead.

The current round of protests was triggered in response to a government-backed amnesty bill that could have extended a pardon to Thaksin Shinawatra and opened the door for his return to Thailand.

The Thai senate rejected the amnesty bill on November 11, but since then demonstrations continued, with the opposition calling for the current government to be replaced by a new administration.

More than a dozen countries have issued travel warnings for citizens to avoid areas near protests in Bangkok.

READ: Business as usual despite protests

READ: Can Thailand's first female PM heal divided nation?

CNN's Anna Coren contributed to this report.

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