The Thai government today extended for three months a state of emergency in the capital and 18 provinces in the wake of bloody, anti-government demonstrations which pushed the country close to chaos.
But the special law was lifted in five provinces.
The Cabinet agreed that there remained “situations that require close monitoring and surveillance” in Bangkok and the 18 provinces – mostly in the north-east, home to many of the so-called Red Shirt demonstrators who descended on Bangkok, Minister to the Prime Minister’s Office Ongart Klampaiboon told reporters.
The Cabinet resolution challenged a proposal by the key security agency, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, urging that the decree remain in force without exception.
A state of emergency was initially declared in Bangkok and in some nearby provinces on April 7.
The government ultimately imposed it to cover Bangkok and 23 provinces – almost one-third of the country’s provinces.
Sporadic violence has continued in the country since the end of the demonstrations on May 19, when the army moved into an area of central Bangkok occupied by the Red Shirts.
Nearly 90 people – most of them protesters – were killed and more than 1,400 were injured during nine weeks of massive demonstrations.
The Red Shirt movement is made up mostly of urban and rural poor, democracy activists and politicians loyal to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup on corruption allegations.
Following the protests, the government rounded up most of the Red Shirt leaders while also declaring a policy of national reconciliation.
International human rights groups have criticised the emergency decrees, which give the Prime Minister power to overrule any state agency, civilian or military. One of the most contentious provisions allows officials to arrest and detain individuals for up to 30 days outside the normal criminal justice system.
“Thailand has never seen this kind of situation,” said Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher for the New York-based Human Rights Watch. “A large number of protesters have been detained but no-one knows the exact figures, or even their whereabouts.”
Although not formally charged, detainees are not guaranteed legal representation or visits from family members.