Thai Senate blasts government's performance

Members of the Thai Senate on Monday blasted the government's four-month performance as thousands of protestors laid siege to the cabinet's offices demanding its resignation, reported dpa.

"After four months in office, the government's performance has been a complete failure," Senator Sumon Sathariyawat said, launching a debate on the performance of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and his ministers, who assumed their posts February 6.

Samak, the leader of the People Power Party (PPP), which won the largest number of seats in the December 23, election, has come under mounting pressure to resign for failing to address escalating economic woes and concentrating instead on constitutional amendments that might bring former premier Thaksin Shinawatra back to power.

Samak and the PPP campaigned on a platform supporting Thaksin, a populist politician who was overthrown in a bloodless military coup on September 19, 2006.

Given its close ties to Thaksin, a billionaire who made his fortune off government telecommunications concessions, the Samak administration has been seen as a proxy government for the Thaksin clique.              

Thaksin and 110 of his closest political allies from the now-defunct Thai Rak Thai party were banned from politics for five years by a military-appointed Constitutional Tribunal last year.

Amendments to the 2007 constitution could pave the way for their return to power and the derailing of several corruption cases against Thaksin.

"I want Samak to reconfirm whether he is Thaksin's nominee or not," Sumon said. "If he confirms he is a nominee, he has no dignity."

Samak, 73, agreed to allow the Senate debate Monday, which is to be followed by a no-confidence debate in the House of Representatives Tuesday and Wednesday, as a means of defusing political tension.

No vote would take place after the Senate debate, and the government, which holds 313 of the 500 seats in the lower house, was expected to win the no-confidence motion Wednesday.

On Friday, more than 10,000 anti-government protestors broke through police barricades to essentially lay siege to government House, the seat of the government and Samak's office, to demand the resignation of the cabinet.

Samak, who has been linked to several bloody crackdowns on pro-democracy demonstrations in Thailand's recent history, has argued that he leads an elected government that the demonstrators have no right to overthrow.

"When it reaches the point that people cannot put up with the situation anymore, I will do my duty," Samak said, warning of a crackdown on the demonstrators and vowing to stay put until the cabinet resigns.

So far, the demonstrations have been peaceful and the government has refrained from confrontation perhaps because it is uncertain of which side the Thai military is backing.

The anti-Samak demonstration is led by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), the same coalition of disparate non-partisan groups that organized mass protests against Thaksin in 2006.

The PAD first took to the streets again on May 25 when the cabinet started to push for constitutional amendments that might lead to the derailing of several pending corruption cases against Thaksin and his eventual return to power.

Thaksin has become a divisive figure in Thailand's political landscape, pitting his style of democratically elected populist patronage against the Bangkok-based middle class and elite, who distrust his self-serving tendencies.

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