Thu, Apr 16, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Calm returns in Thailand amid state of emergency

AFP , BANGKOK

Thailand maintained a state of emergency across Bangkok to ensure security yesterday, a day after soldiers quelled anti-government protests that left two dead and plunged the kingdom into chaos.

The government said troops would remain on the streets despite arresting three protest leaders and issuing warrants for fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and other leaders over the bloody street battles.

“The situation is under control. The government will keep watching the situation and monitor the movements of leaders who are not in detention,” government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said. “The prime minister wants to lift the state of emergency as soon as he can because he does not want to affect business.”

Security checkpoints were in place around the capital, which was quiet as residents enjoyed a final day of Buddhist New Year celebrations ahead of an extra two days of public holiday announced in the wake of the riots.

Thailand issued an arrest warrant on Tuesday for Thaksin for inciting thousands of demonstrators who staged a three-week rally at Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s offices to demand he resign.

The protest escalated with the storming of a regional summit last weekend, forcing its closure, before a bloody showdown in Bangkok between demonstrators and troops.

The protesters dispersed from on Tuesday amid threats of further military action.

The Nation newspaper said the peaceful ending of the riots had strengthened Abhisit who would “be respected and considered a capable and mature leader who can lead Thailand into the future.”

But editorials agreed on the urgent need for national reconciliation to unite Thai society, which is bitterly divided between Thaksin’s largely poor supporters and the government backed by the army and the Bangkok elite.

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