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Thailand declares Bangkok state of emergency

Government orders 60 days of special powers in capital region, saying they will prevent deaths in protests against PM.

Last updated: 21 Jan 2014 16:27
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Protesters have occupied several government buildings in the capital, Bangkok [Reuters]

The Thai government has declared a state of emergency in the capital Bangkok and surrounding areas to cope with protests aimed at forcing the prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, from power.

Chalerm Yubumrung, Thailand's labour minister, announced on Tuesday that the restrictions would come into force after midnight and last 60 days.

"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," the minister said.

The decree will allow 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 police, not the military, would mainly be used and her government had no intention of confronting the protesters.

"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 said on Tuesday.

Recent violence

The state of emergency follows increasing attacks at protest sites for which the government and the protesters blame each other. These include grenade attacks and drive-by shootings.

On Sunday, 28 people were wounded when two grenades were thrown at one of several protest sites set up in Bangkok.

Another grenade attack on a protest march last Friday killed one man and wounded dozens. No arrests have been made in either attack.

The protesters have been demanding Yingluck's resignation to make way for an appointed government to implement reforms to fight corruption.

The protesters say that Yingluck's government is carrying on the practices of Thaksin Shinawatra, her billionaire brother who was prime minister from 2001 to 2006, by using the family fortune and state funds to influence voters and cement its power.

Yingluck called elections for February 2, but the protesters want them postponed. The opposition Democrat Party, closely aligned with the protesters, is boycotting the polls.

The announcement of the emergency decree said the elections would proceed as planned.

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