Thai Government Declares State of Emergency as Protests Drag on
Bangkok – The Thai government on Tuesday declared a 60-day state of emergency to start on Wednesday, saying it wanted to prevent any escalation in more than two months of protests aimed at forcing Prime Minister YingluckShinawatra from power. The decree, which applies to Bangkok and surrounding provinces, gives security agencies the power to impose curfews, detain suspects without charge, censor media, ban political gatherings of more than five people and declare parts of the capital off-limits.
“We need it because the protesters have closed government buildings, banks and escalated the situation, which has caused injuries and deaths. The government sees the need to announce the emergency decree to keep the situation under control,” Labor Minister ChalermYoobamrung told a nationally televised news conference. The government had no plans to try to disperse protesters during the night, he added, without elaborating.
He was speaking after a cabinet meeting which had to be held at air force headquarters in the north of Bangkok because the protesters have for weeks prevented Yingluck using her offices in Government House. The protests, now in their third month, have closed off parts of the capital in the latest installment of an eight-year political conflict that has seen sporadic outbreaks of violence.
The protests pit the middle class and royalist establishment against the mainly poorer supporters of Yingluck and her brother, ex-premier ThaksinShinawatra, who was toppled by the military in 2006. The protesters want to suspend what they say is a democracy commandeered by the self-exiled billionaire Thaksin, whom they accuse of nepotism and corruption, and eradicate the political influence of his family by altering electoral arrangements.
In a potentially worrying development for Yingluck, whose power base depends heavily on rural support, some farmers have threatened to join the protesters if they do not get paid for their rice vote. (Reuters)