Thailand yesterday announced the end of a nearly two-month-old state of emergency in Bangkok and surrounding areas, hoping to lure back foreign visitors following an easing of deadly political protests.
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 state of emergency will be replaced by another special law, the Internal Security Act, with effect from today until April 30, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s office announced.
“We’re confident that we can handle the situation, so the Cabinet agreed to revoke the state of emergency as requested by many parties,” Yingluck told reporters.
“The cancelation is to build confidence in the economy and the tourism sector,” she said.
Yingluck has faced more than four months of political protests aimed at ousting her elected government and installing an unelected “people’s council” to oversee reforms.
The state of emergency was introduced in the run-up to a Feb. 2 general election called by the prime minister in an unsuccessful attempt to calm the crisis.
Political bloodshed, often targeting protesters, has left 23 people dead and hundreds wounded in recent months, including in grenade attacks and shootings.
However, attendance at the demonstrations has fallen sharply in recent weeks, while the introduction of emergency rule failed to prevent protesters disrupting last month’s election.
The demonstrators late last month moved to scale back their rallies, consolidating at one site in Bangkok’s Lumpini Park as they ended their so-called “Bangkok shutdown,” which had seen them occupy key road intersections in the city.
Thailand has been periodically rocked by mass demonstrations staged by rival protest groups since a military coup in 2006 that ousted then-Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra — Yingluck’s brother.
Her opponents say she is a puppet for Thaksin, a billionaire tycoon-turned-politician who fled overseas in 2008 to avoid jail for a corruption conviction.
Last month’s election has not been completed in some areas because of disruption by the protests, leaving Yingluck’s government in a caretaker role with limited powers.
Pro-Thaksin parties won every previous election for more than a decade, helped by strong support in the northern half of the kingdom.
However, many southerners and Bangkok residents accuse the Shinawatra family of using taxpayers’ money to buy the loyalty of rural voters through populist policies.
The authorities were unable to use the security powers offered by the state of emergency in any case, after a Thai Civil Court last month ordered the government not to use regulations issued under the decree.
The court banned the use of force against the protesters, after attempts by riot police to clear areas occupied for weeks by opposition demonstrators sparked deadly clashes.
Yingluck has suffered a series of legal defeats by the courts, which have been accused by government supporters of colluding with the opposition to try to oust her.