Thailand lifts state of emergency in Bangkok as protesters pull back
Thailand is lifting a state of emergency in?Bangkok?and surrounding provinces following months of antigovernment protests marred by deadly violence. But the move does not necessarily signal an end to demonstrations ? or further violence.
The state of emergency was invoked two months ago amid opposition marches against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra?s government and her influential brother and self-exiled former leader?Thaksin Shinawatra. An estimated 23 people have died and hundreds have been injured in the protests, which have quieted down?in recent days.
The state of emergency will be lifted Wednesday, andreplaced by a less harsh law called the Internal Security Act,?reports Agence France Presse. Under this law, authorities can still impose state-mandated curfews, set up security checkpoints, and restrict the movement of protesters.
Lifting the state of emergency should ?improve the state?s image because rights groups tend to view the emergency law as draconian,? political analyst Kan Yuenyong of?Siam?Intelligence Unit told Reuters. Ms. Yingluck said the move was meant to ?build confidence in the economy and the tourism sector? after more than 4 months of political unrest.
But Mr. Kan warns that, ?ultimately, no law can help the government contain the protests if they flare up again.?
According to Reuters, ?the threat of further violence remains real.? One factor is that a new, more militant politician now leads the pro-Thaksin “red shirts” and has promised to fight “tooth and nail” to defend Yingluck.
Opposition leader Suthep Thaugsuban had started drawing down protesters’ presence?about three weeks ago, according to The Christian Science Monitor.
He said the move was tactical and designed to allow demonstrators to concentrate on disrupting government ministries. Insiders say it was also motivated by spiraling costs and safety fears after a spate of grenade attacks and shootings in which four children were killed and scores injured?.
But if the streets are returning to normal in the capital of?Southeast Asia?s second largest economy, the chances of a resolution to Thailand?s political crisis have not significantly increased. Rather than retreating, the core of Mr. Suthep?s followers have merely regrouped inside Bangkok?s largest park, where they insist they still have the numbers to topple the government. Observers say the chances of Prime Minister Yingluck Shiniwatra being forced out of office by the courts ? widely seen as sympathetic to the protest movement ? is looking increasingly likely. Meanwhile, signs of a truce across Thailand?s bitterly divided political lines are yet to materialize.
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Source: Whitney Eulich (2014). Thailand lifts state of emergency in Bangkok as protesters pull back, CS Monitor http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Security-Watch/terrorism-security/2014/0318/Thailand-lifts-state-of-emergency-in-Bangkok-as-protesters-pull-back published Mar 18, 2014. Viewed Mar 19, 2014.