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Thai Government Declares State of Emergency for Bangkok

Thai military medics walk near the scene following an explosion at an anti-government protest camp at the Victory monument in central Bangkok 19 January, 2014

Thai military medics walk near the scene following an explosion at an anti-government protest camp at the Victory monument in central Bangkok

 

BANGKOK – The Thai government has declared a state of emergency for 60 days in Bangkok and nearby provinces to deal with the continuing antigovernment protests that have blockaded parts of Bangkok in a bid to force Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to step down.

Protest leaders vowed to defy the decree.

The state of emergency will be imposed effective Wednesday in all areas of the capital, neighboring Nonthaburi province and some districts in other provinces, deputy prime minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said at a news conference.

Mr. Surapong said that the government’s goal is to enforce laws regarding the protests and supporters of the movement, which has disrupted areas of central Bangkok for weeks, as well as to curb “the spread of distorted information that incites chaos and division, which affects the country’s security.”

Officials said they would disclose details of the security measures Wednesday. Generally, emergency decrees give security authorities powers to detain suspects without charge, censor media, impose curfews and ban political gatherings of more than five people, among others.

Mr. Surapong cited a spate of violence by provocateurs that resulted in injuries and loss of lives that has prompted the government to impose the laws. Since the protests broke in early November, nine people have been killed and scores injured in clashes between rival protesters, security forces and from attacks.

In a pair of explosives attacks against crowds since last week, one person was killed and some 60 injured.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban responded to the announcement by telling a crowd that he would defy the decree and urged his “fearless” supporters to keep up the demonstrations.

“They will ban us from marching, we will keep marching. They will ban our speech, we will talk all day,” Mr. Suthep said. “And if they bring in forces, we will pray…fight with them.”

The recent escalation of violence has raised fears of more unrest as the Southeast Asian country is headed to elections Feb. 2. The protesters are determined to scuttle the elections, which Ms. Yingluck’s Pheu Thai Party is expected to win.

The protests were launched in November and at times crowds have numbered some 150,000 people, mostly from Bangkok’s middle classes who have opposed populist rule by Ms. Yingluck and her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed as prime minister in a coup in 2006.

The protests took a new turn last week when crowds launched a new push to shut down the capital, occupying seven key intersections. Attacks followed against the homes of several opposition leaders, as well as assaults against the crowds. No one has been arrested.

Both the government and Mr. Suthep have blamed each other for the violence.

Mr. Surapong, a former deputy prime minister, insisted that the government adhere to international protocols and not use forces to crack down on the protesters, whom he said are unarmed.

Wilawan Watcharasakwet and Nopparat Chaichalearmmongkol contributed to this article.

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