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Thailand imposes 60-day emergency

- Govt wants to stop escalation of protests

Bangkok, Jan. 21 (Reuters): The Thai government declared a 60-day state of emergency to start tomorrow, saying it wanted to prevent any escalation of more than two months of protests aimed at forcing Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from power.

The decree, which covers Bangkok and surrounding provinces, allows security agencies to impose curfews, detain suspects without charge, censor media, ban political gatherings of more than five persons and declare areas off-limits.

Yingluck said her government has no intention of confronting the protesters, who have been allowed to close off several government buildings, including her own. The military, involved in several previous coups, has so far stayed neutral.

“We will use peaceful negotiations with the protesters in line with international standards ... We have told the police to stick with international standards, to be patient with the protesters,” she said.

She said police, not the military, would mainly be used to maintain control.

“We need it because the protesters have closed government buildings, banks and escalated the situation, which has caused injuries and deaths. The government sees the need to announce the emergency decree to keep the situation under control,” labour minister Chalerm Yoobamrung told a news conference following a cabinet meeting.

Yingluck has called an election for February 2, which she will almost certainly win and which the Opposition plans to boycott. However, the Election Commission said it would seek a Constitutional Court ruling today on whether it can delay the vote.

It says that the protests have prevented some candidates from registering which means that there would not be a quorum to open parliament after the election. The protests, now in their third month, have closed off parts of the capital in the latest instalment of an eight-year political conflict.

They pit the middle class and royalist establishment against the mainly poorer supporters of Yingluck.

 
 
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