Thai Government Lifts Bangkok Emergency, Crisis Far From Over

News ID: 317116 Service: Other Media
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TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Thailand is lifting a state of emergency in Bangkok, taking a step to restore some confidence as anti-government protests subside, though the crisis has entered a new phase with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra besieged by legal challenges.

The protesters, mainly from Bangkok and the south, have been trying since November to oust Yingluck and rid the country of the influence of her brother, self-exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra who was toppled by the army in 2006.

The government imposed a state of emergency two months ago, but largely resisted taking heavy-handed action, though 23 people have been killed during the unrest, most in shootings and grenade blasts.

The protests have waned in recent weeks and are now mostly confined to Lumpini Park in Bangkok's central business district and a few other sites, Reuters reported.

But the threat of further violence remains real, especially after changes at the top of the pro-Thaksin "red shirt" movement at the weekend, with a new, more militant leader promising "to fight tooth and nail" to defend Yingluck.

The emergency will be lifted from Wednesday after a decision taken at a cabinet meeting held on Tuesday in Nakhon Pathom province, about 80 km (50 miles) from Bangkok.

Yingluck arrived for the meeting in a wheelchair after slipping as she stepped out of a car on Saturday in the northern city of Chiang Mai, her stronghold.

"The cabinet lifted the state of emergency to instil more confidence in the private sector and tourist industry," she told reporters.

In its place, the government will use the Internal Security Act, a less harsh law that still allows the authorities to impose curfews, operate security checkpoints and restrict the movement of protesters as needed.

"Lifting the emergency law should have a positive impact on businesses. Many really felt the pinch and lost customers because the state of emergency was in place, including tour operators who saw huge cancellations," said political analyst Kan Yuenyong at Siam Intelligence Unit.

"It should also improve the state's image because rights groups tend to view the emergency law as draconian. But, ultimately, no law can help the government contain the protests if they flare up again."

The stock market and baht currency rose slightly on the government's move, which had been expected, although that was enough to take the baht to a three-month high.

The government set the 60-day emergency from January 22 to help contain protests in the run-up to a general election on February 2, but most of its measures were barely used, especially after a court ruled on February 19 that some had been imposed illegally.

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