Author Topic: State of emergency declared in Bangkok  (Read 62 times)

Elano

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State of emergency declared in Bangkok
« on: September 02, 2008, 01:08:42 AM »

Bangkok was under a state of emergency this morning after a night of violence in which one man was shot dead and dozens were injured in street battles between supporters and opponents of the struggling democratic government of the Thai prime minister, Samak Sundaravej.

The emergency decree, which bans gatherings of more than five people and gives the military the power to disperse crowds, came at the climax of a week of increasing instability in the Thai capital where opponents of Mr Sundaravej are trying to force him from power and suspend the country’s democratic constitution.

It came as Thailand's electoral commission, in a shock move, voted to recommend the Supreme Court disband Mr Samak's government for election fraud.

For most of the week, police have avoided using force to displace hundreds of demonstrators who have taken over Thailand’s Government House, driving Mr Samak out of his own offices. But last night at least one man was killed and more than 30 were injured when civilian supporters of Mr Samak’s government marched to confront his opponents in the People’s Alliance for Democracy and skirmished with them on the way to Government House.

Members of both sides, dressed in motorbike helmets, fought one another with sticks, clubs and pipes, and gun shots were reported by witnesses. There were contradictory accounts of which side the dead man came from, but according to reporters he died of a gunshot wound to the chest. Hospitals said that several other people were gravely injured.

Just hours after the state of emergency was declared, the five member electoral commission found Mr Samak's People's Action Party guilty of buying votes during last December's general election, in which the PPP won a convincing victory.

Mr Samak had been holding back the security forces for days. Even if their own people turn out to be its victims, this morning’s deaths give his opponents what they wanted: concrete evidence that he has lost control of the country and is unfit for office.

A small bomb explosion in a Bangkok police box, which caused no injuries, added to the air of crisis. On Monday night, the leaders of a 200,000 strong coalition of trades unions threatened a general strike in which water, electricity and telephone lines to government offices would be cut off, and flights of the national carrier Thai Airways, would be delayed. Bank workers were also threatening to go on strike.

Mr Samak is a tough and uncompromising mayor of Bangkok whom many Thais hold responsible for urging a massacre of anti-government protesters by right-wing thugs in 1976. His government is seen as a thinly disguised proxy of Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister who was ousted in a military coup two years ago. Mr Thaksin fled to exile in London last month to avoid charges of corruption in a Bangkok court.

His opponents on the PAD insist that he resign and that Thailand’s political system must be changed to reduce the influence of the large number of voters among the rural poor, whose support brought both Mr Thaksin and Mr Samak to power.

"I am sure that I love this country as much as anybody,” Mr Samak said at a weekend parliamentary session which discussed the political deadlock. “But I love democracy much more, more than anyone who told me to resign.”