Thailand to Lift State of Emergency as Business Suffers
Bangkok – Thailand is expected to lift a state of emergency in Bangkok, almost two months after it was imposed to quell anti-government protests, because of pressure from businesses and in light of improving security, a top official said on Tuesday. Protesters trying to bring down Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and end what they see as the pervasive influence of her brother, ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, have been on the streets for four months.
The instability is unnerving consumers, with confidence at a 12-year low, and automakers, property firms and hotels in Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy are feeling the pinch. Twenty-three people have been killed, most in shootings and grenade blasts, since late November and the bloodshed is scaring tourists away from Bangkok.
National Security Council chief Paradorn Pattanathabutr said there was a “very high chance” the emergency in Bangkok and surrounding areas would be lifted soon. “Business organizations have asked that it be lifted and the overall situation is easing,” Paradorn told reporters.
The protests are the latest turmoil to rattle a country broadly divided between urban, middle-class supporters of the royalist establishment and the rural supporters of former telecoms tycoon Thaksin, mostly in the north and northeast. Thaksin’s supporters say he was the first Thai political leader to keep campaign promises to help the poor. His critics, who say he is the real power behind his sister’s government, say he used his wealth and taxpayers’ money on wasteful populist policies that have allowed him to commandeer a fragile democracy.(Reuters)