Thailand’s government has declared a 60-day state of emergency in the capital Bangkok and its surrounding areas from Wednesday, as it struggles to contain violent protests against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
The decree gives security forces the power to impose curfews, detain suspects without charge, censor media, ban political gatherings of more than five people and cordon off parts of the capital.
“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,” Labour Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung told a nationally televised news conference.
Chalerm spoke to the media following a cabinet meeting that was held at an air force headquarters north of Bangkok, because Yingluck’s offices at Government House have been blocked off by protesters for weeks.
Thailand’s political crisis has pitted the middle class and royalist establishment against Yingluck’s mainly poorer supporters. Demonstrators have demanded the prime minister step down to make way for an appointed government that can implement reforms to fight corruption.
Although Yingluck has called for an election to be held on Feb. 2, the country’s main opposition party has called for a boycott of the vote.
The demonstrations, now in their third month, have become increasingly violent. One man was killed and dozens of people wounded in a grenade attack on protesters in the city centre on Friday and Sunday. In a separate incident earlier this month, several protesters were wounded in a shooting.
Thailand has experienced periodic unrest ever since Yingluck’s brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was deposed by the military in 2006. He has chosen to live in exile in Dubai rather than serve a prison sentence for abuse of power.
The protests in Bangkok began in November after the government tried to force through a broad political amnesty that would have allowed him to return home a free man.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-01-21