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State of emergency declared in Bangkok

The Thai gov't has declared a state of emergency in Bangkok and surrounding areas, a day after violent protests forced the cancellation of an Asian summit in Pattaya. Protestors gathered outside Thai PM Abhisit's office soon after the announcement.


AFP - Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva announced a state of emergency Sunday in Bangkok and surrounding areas after protests that forced the cancellation of a regional summit.

"The government has tried all along to avoid violence but the protest has developed and they have used actions incompatible with the constitution," he said in a televised speech.

"Now the government is unable to avoid this state of emergency," he added.

"In the past we have tried to maintain normalcy, but now we must speed up our efforts to restore the situation before it worsens."

Minutes after his announcement, an AFP reporter saw gunshots fired into the air outside the interior ministry in Bangkok where thousands of protesters had gathered.

Abhisit was speaking after police arrested the leader of the protesters who Saturday stormed the luxury hotel venue for the summit at the beach resort of Pattaya.

Authorities were forced to scrap the meeting and evacuate foreign leaders, some of them by helicopter from the hotel roof, in a major embarrassment for Abhisit's government.

State television said the emergency was imposed "because the situation is worsening with a group of people inciting unrest."

The state of emergency encompasses the entirety of metropolitan Bangkok and about a dozen districts in provinces surrounding the capital.

About 6,000 protesters had gathered outside Abhisit's offices immediately after the announcement, with several hundred others at the interior ministry.

Authorities did not say how long the measure would be in place but Abhisit said his deputy Suthep Thaungsuban, the minister in charge of security, would oversee its implementation.

The emergency measure bans public gatherings of more than five people and empowers police and military to detain suspects for between seven and 30 days without charge.

Officials can also enforce strict controls on media and all other forms of communication.

It is the third time a state of emergency has been invoked in the capital since September 2008 -- the measure being used on both previous occasions to crack down on a rival group of demonstrators.

Those protesters had besieged government offices last August and later laid siege to Bangkok's airports last November, escalating a crisis that eventually led to Abhisit's government taking over from allies of Thaksin.

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