Thailand’s government is set to lift the state of emergency in Bangkok and surrounding provinces two months after imposing it to curb anti-government protests, as the security situation has improved due to the dwindling number of demonstrators.
The protesters have been trying since early November to overthrow Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and rid the country of the influence of her brother, ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
“We have agreed to lift the state of emergency and use the Internal Security Act starting from tomorrow until April 30 as the number of protesters has dwindled … and after pleas from the business community,” national security chief Paradorn Pattanathabutr told Reuters news agency on Tuesday.
The decision had been approved by Yingluck, according to the prime minister’s secretary-general, Suranand Vejjajiva, who spoke to AFP news agency.
The Internal Security Act is a less harsh law but still allows the authorities to impose curfews, operate security checkpoints and restrict the movement of protesters as needed.
At least 23 people have been killed since the unrest began late last year, most in shootings and grenade blasts.
The protests, which were mainly held in Bangkok and the south, have waned in recent weeks and are now mostly confined to Lumpini Park in Bangkok’s central business district and a few other sites.
The use of emergency rule dealt a heavy blow to Thailand’s key tourism industry during what is usually peak season, and also raised fears of a drop in foreign investment.
The government set the 60-day emergency from January 22 to help contain protests in the run-up to a general election on February 2, but most of its measures were barely used, especially after a court ruled on February 19 that some had been imposed illegally.
The election in February was disrupted by protesters in almost 70 of the 375 constituencies, leaving the House of Representatives without a quorum to open and elect a new prime minister.
The Constitutional Court has accepted a petition to consider annulling the election, which could further delay the formation of a new government.
Yingluck, whose Puea Thai Party had been expected to win the election, heads a caretaker administration with limited powers.
She faces a slew of legal challenges that could bring her down, including a charge of dereliction of duty over a rice subsidy scheme that owes money to hundreds of thousands of farmers.