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Protests swell in Bangkok after Thai PM survives no-confidence vote

From Kocha Olarn, CNN
November 28, 2013 -- Updated 0808 GMT (1608 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra survives a no-confidence vote in parliament
  • Protesters rally outside government offices, demanding she step down
  • Critics say Yingluck is a puppet for her brother, a former PM who was ousted in a coup
  • "The government is ready to open a space for dialogue," Yingluck says

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Bangkok, Thailand (CNN) -- Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra survived a no-confidence vote in parliament Thursday, but that didn't sway the throngs of protesters denouncing her.

Even after the 297-134 vote, demonstrations swelled in Bangkok.

"The government is ready to open a space for dialogue," the embattled prime minster said in a brief televised statement after the vote. She added that officials are willing to "listen to all voices of people, including those who are still occupying the governmental offices."

But a spokesman for Yingluck's Pheu Thai Party said she would not resign or dissolve the parliament. "She will stay in power," said Prompong Nopparit.

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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Thailand PM defies critics

Protesters have been calling for an end to the government led by Yingluck, whose brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, is a telecommunications tycoon and former premier who was ousted in a 2006 coup.

Yingluck's critics accuse her of being Thaksin's puppet, a charge she denies.

Thaksin was a polarizing figure who was removed from power by the military in 2006, while he was in New York. Except for a brief return in 2008, he has lived in exile since then; Thai courts have convicted him of corruption and sentenced him in absentia to two years in prison.

Courts have also frozen billions of dollars of his assets, but he is believed to still have a great deal of money held elsewhere.

In recent days, thousands of protesters have ramped up pressure on the Thai government led by Thaksin's sister by surrounding government buildings. On Monday, protesters in Bangkok stormed the finance ministry building and converted it into a command center.

But the number of demonstrators, led by the opposition Democrat Party, has declined from the roughly 100,000 people who initially assembled.

READ: What's behind Thailand protests?

How it started

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 bill on November 11, but opposition demonstrators have called since then for Yingluck's government to be replaced.

Weeks of anti-government protests led by the Democrat Party culminated Sunday in a giant demonstration. At various points during the past few days, demonstrators have surrounded the foreign ministry, the agriculture ministry and the interior ministry.

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.

On Thursday, protesters pulled down electricity wires to the National Police Headquarters.

And while these protests have been peaceful, they evoke memories of the 2010 clashes in Bangkok between security forces and Thaksin supporters who demanded his return. Some 90 people, many of them civilians, were killed.

The National Security Council said Wednesday authorities were "sticking with negotiation" and trying to persuade Suthep to surrender to authorities.

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

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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