Thailand yesterday declared a 60-day state of emergency in Bangkok and surrounding areas to tackle mass street protests aimed at overthrowing the government.
The move follows weeks of rallies that have paralyzed parts of the capital and sparked several bouts of deadly violence, including grenade attacks and shootings.
“The Cabinet decided to invoke the emergency decree to take care of the situation and to enforce the law,” Thai Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said, adding that protesters had prevented officials from going to work.
The decree is to come into force tomorrow.
Thai 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 protests aimed at ousting her government and installing an unelected “people’s council.”
It was not immediately clear how the government would implement the decree, which enables authorities to ban public gatherings of more than five people and detain suspects for 30 days without charge.
Thai National Security Council chief Paradorn Pattanatabut said there were already enough police and soldiers deployed to deal with the demonstrations.
He said the decree could be used to ban protest marches.
Yingluck has called an election for Feb. 2, but the main opposition party is boycotting the vote.
The protesters are trying 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 Jan. 13, erecting roadblocks and rally stages at several main intersections, although their number 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, which each side has blamed on the other, heightened fears of growing unrest before next month’s election.