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News Analysis: Emergency decree in Thailand likely to no avail

English.news.cn   2014-01-23 16:55:07

by Zhang Chunxiao, Chang Tiantong and Ming Dajun

BANGKOK, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) -- The Thai caretaker government has invoked an emergency decree in the capital and adjacent provinces to cope with increasing violence in street protests, but observers believe this decision will most likely fail to turn things around.

A most stringent decree in Thailand, the emergency decree gives officials the power to impose curfews, detain suspects without charge, censor media, ban political gathering of more than five people and declare parts of the capital off-limits.

But according to Foreign Ministry Permanent Secretary Sihasak Phuanggetkeow, only part of the emergency decree has so far been invoked, which does not involve banning or dispersing rallies, censoring media, restricting the freedom of movement or imposing curfew.

Whether the government will invoke more authorities under the decree is still unsure, Sihasak indicated.

Political observers believe the current emergency decree might turn out to be no less fruitless than the Internal Security Act the Yingluck cabinet had imposed over the past months in Bangkok and surrounding areas to contain the protests.

Nothing seemed to have changed on Bangkok streets since the 60- day state of emergency took effect on Wednesday, which to some extent echoes such observations.

Thousands of protesters laid siege to the Office of the Defense Permanent Secretary on Wednesday, and forced caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to edge away through the back gate.

Stages set up at major road intersections remain intact, and protesters continue marching in multiple processions while waving flags, blowing whistles and chanting slogans.

Riot police deployed in the capital have taken no action to stop protests and no one has been arrested yet.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has scoffed the emergency decree and called on supporters to step up demonstrations and fight until victory is secured.

The invocation of the decree will not affect protests, but instead push more Thais to join in, spokesman for the anti- government People's Democratic Reform Committee Akanat Promphan said.

This is not the first time the emergency decree has been imposed in the Thai history.

Back in April 2010, the then Abhisit government invoked the decree, which was later expanded to up to 24 provinces, to handle massive anti-government rallies by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, better known as "red shirts."

But things are somewhat different now, observers say. The Yingluck government has failed to gain strong support from the military as Abhisit did.

On May 19, 2010, the military followed the government's order and launched a deadly crackdown on "red shirts" protesters, resulting in 92 deaths and more than 2,000 injuries.

Nevertheless, Yingluck cannot expect the military to do the same for her.

During the last few months, the top military brass repeatedly claimed they took a neutral stance amid the political tumult.

Following the invocation of the emergency decree, army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said he was not sure if the decree would make the situation better or worse.

According to Prayuth, the army would provide protection for officials, protesters and the public alike, and if things got out of control, they would step in.

Analysts argue that protesters have for long wished the military to intervene, and the likelihood of military intervention, as now reinforced by Prayuth, would prompt them to take street rallies to the next level and provoke the government and police in an even fiercer way.

If more violence erupts and leads to more bloodsheds, the military will have to take action, said Surachai Sirikrai, professor with the Faculty of Political Science of Bangkok-based Thammasat University.

One can smell a military coup, said Pornchai Trakulwaranont, vice rector for Administration of Thammsat University.

Yingluck's hands are tied, though. With no steadfast support from the military, she would have to forbear from tough action against protesters, as she has already done over the past months. In this way, the emergency decree will not produce an effect as it is expected to.

Instructions given to the police and security personnel are still to exercise restraint and avoid the use of force, Foreign Ministry Permanent Secretary Sihasak Phuanggetkeow said.

Related:

Current emergency decree bans no protests: Thai official

BANGKOK, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- The current emergency decree invoked by the Thai caretaker government does not involve banning or dispersing protests, or limitations on the media, Foreign Ministry Permanent Secretary Sihasak Phuanggetkeow said Wednesday.

Only part of the emergency decree has been invoked, which involves no authorities to impose restrictions on the freedom of movement or curfews, Sihasak told foreign media at a press conference. Full story

Editor: chengyang
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