Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Thai PM declares state of emergency in Bangkok

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva declared a state of emergency in Bangkok on Wednesday, handing the army broad powers to restore order after anti-government protesters broke into Parliament, forcing some lawmakers to flee by helicopter.

Other lawmakers scaled the compound's walls to escape the most chaotic protest in several weeks of demonstrations by a group demanding Abhisit dissolve the government and call elections within 15 days. He has offered to do so by the end of the year.

"The government has tried its best to enforce the law, but violations of the law have increased," Abhisit said in a televised statement that interrupted regular programming. "The intrusion into Parliament today led me to call an emergency meeting with the Cabinet this evening."

The government already had placed Bangkok under the strict Internal Security Act.

But a state of emergency includes more sweeping powers. It gives the military authority to restore order and allows authorities to suspend certain civil liberties and ban all public gatherings of more than five people.

The so-called Red Shirt protesters have been camped in Bangkok since March 12 and have ignored all other decrees for them to stop their demonstrations.

Abhisit has become the target of harsh criticism for failing to take strong measures to end the protests. He has tried negotiations, and has had security forces pull back from possible confrontations.

In a broadcast statement Tuesday, he explained "The last thing we want is for the situation to spiral out of control."

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