Thailand declares state of emergency


BANGKOK: Thailand on Tuesday declared a 60-day state of emergency in Bangkok and surrounding areas to tackle mass street protests aimed at overthrowing the government.

“The cabinet decided to invoke the emergency decree to take care of the  situation and to enforce the law,” Deputy Prime Minister Surapong  Tovichakchaikul said, noting that protesters had prevented officials from going  to work.
The decree will come into effect from Wednesday.      
The move follows weeks of mass rallies in the city that have sparked  several bouts of violence, including grenade attacks and shootings that each  side has blamed on the other.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is under intense pressure from  demonstrators, backed by the royalist establishment, to step down after more  than two months of street rallies aimed at ousting her government and  installing an unelected “people’s council”.    
She has called an election for February but the main opposition party is  boycotting the vote. The protesters are seeking to disrupt the polls and have  prevented candidates from registering in some southern constituencies.
The demonstrators have staged a self-styled “shutdown” of Bangkok since  January 13, erecting roadblocks and rally stages at several key intersections,  although the number of protesters has steadily fallen since the middle of last  week.
Dozens of people were wounded and one killed in grenade attacks by unknown  assailants on opposition rallies on Friday and Sunday. The incidents heightened  fears of growing unrest ahead of next month’s election.
Labour Minister Chalerm Yubamrung, who will oversee the implementation of  the emergency decree, said Thailand would abide by international standards    
“We will not use force. We have no policy to disperse them (the protesters)  and we haven’t announced a curfew yet,” he said.
The kingdom has been periodically rocked by political bloodshed since  former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck’s older brother, was  overthrown by royalist generals in a coup seven years ago. 
The latest protests were triggered by a failed amnesty bill that could have  allowed Thaksin to return without going to jail for a past corruption  conviction.
The demonstrators accuse the billionaire telecoms tycoon-turned-politician  of controlling his sister’s government from his base in Dubai.
Thaksin has strong electoral support in northern Thailand, but he is  reviled by many southerners, Bangkok’s middle class and members of the royalist  establishment. AFP


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