Anti-government protesters wave flags as they march through
Bangkok's financial district. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
The Thai government has declared a 60-day state of
emergency to start today, saying it wanted to prevent any
escalation of more than two months of protests aimed at forcing
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from power.
The decree, which covers Bangkok and surrounding provinces,
allows security agencies to impose curfews, detain suspects
without charge, censor media, ban political gatherings of
more than five people and declare areas off-limits.
Yingluck said her government has no intention of confronting
the protesters, who have been allowed to close off several
government buildings, including her own. The military,
involved in several previous coups, has so far stayed
"We will use peaceful negotiations with the protesters in
line with international standards ... We have told the police
to stick with international standards, to be patient with the
protesters," she told reporters.
She said police, not the military, would mainly be used to
"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 news
conference following a cabinet meeting.
Yingluck has called an election for Feb. 2, which she will
almost certainly win and which the opposition plans to
However, the Election Commission said it would seek a
Constitutional Court ruling on Wednesday on whether it can
delay the vote. It says that the protests have prevented some
candidates from registering which means that there would not
be a quorum to open parliament after the election.
The protests, now in their third month, have closed off parts
of the capital in the latest instalment of an eight-year
political conflict that has seen sporadic outbreaks of
They pit the middle class and royalist establishment against
the mainly poorer supporters of Yingluck and her brother,
ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was toppled by the
military in 2006.
FARMERS THREATEN TO JOIN PROTEST
Led by 64-year-old anti-government firebrand Suthep
Thaugsuban, the protests were triggered by Yingluck's moves
last year to grant amnesty to her brother, the self-exiled
former premier Thaksin Shinawatra whom Suthep accuses of
nepotism and corruption.
Nine people have died since they began in November, the worst
violence since 2010. It was Suthep, at that time a deputy
prime minister, who sent in troops to end mass protests by
pro-Thaksin supporters. More than 90 people died in that
He is demanding Yingluck step down and a "people's council"
be appointed in place. He has given only vague details on the
reforms he wants but analysts say his chief aim is to
eradicate Thaksin's political influence.
The protesters want to suspend what they say is a democracy
commandeered by the self-exiled billionaire Thaksin and alter
electoral arrangements so that his allies are unable to
return to power.
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 the rice they have sold to the state.
A scheme under which farmers are guaranteed an above-market
price for their rice has been a centrepiece of the
government's programme but, as financing strains mount, some
are complaining they have been waiting three or four months
to be paid.
The protests are also beginning to undermine Southeast Asia's
On Monday, the Thai subsidiary of auto giant Toyota Motor
Corp, one of Thailand's biggest foreign investors, said it
might reconsider a $600 million spending plan and even cut
production if the unrest drags on.
And some economists expect the central bank will be forced to
further cut interest rates when it meets on Wednesday to give
a lift to the economy.