BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand’s government said on Tuesday it was lifting a state of emergency in three provinces but it would remain in force in 16 others, including Bangkok, to help the authorities cope with the aftermath of recent unrest.
Ninety people were killed and almost 2,000 wounded in clashes in central Bangkok in April and May between protesters demanding an early election and security forces. “The lifting is because there’s no movement or any sign that could lead to unrest, and the government has adequate security forces to maintain a peaceful situation,” deputy government spokesman Supachai Jaisamut said after a cabinet meeting.
“The government continues to impose the state of emergency in 16 provinces because there is some movement there,” he told reporters.
The state of emergency bans political gatherings of more than five people and allows the government to censor the media. It also gives broad powers to the security forces, including the right to detain suspects without charge.
The government lifted it in five provinces on July 6 when the initial period came to an end, but extended it for another three months in other areas covering a quarter of the country, saying anti-government elements still posed a threat.
The protesters, mostly poorer Thais who back ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, were forced to quit their camp in the capital in a military crackdown on May 19, after which some rioted and committed arson.
That instability raised fears about the economy, but the damage was not as bad as expected.
Central Bank Governor Tarisa Watanagase said Tuesday that even tourism, badly hit in April and May, had recovered quickly and was no longer such a big concern for the economy.
“Consumption and investment have now recovered and private sector investment, in particular, is back to the pre-crisis level,” she added.
Tuesday’s removal of the emergency covered one province in the north and two in the northeast of the country.
These are broadly pro-Thaksin areas but Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva considers the situation there stable enough for normal policing to ensure law and order.
Calm was quickly restored after May 19 but the government fears some in the “red shirt” movement may still attempt to provoke trouble even though hundreds, including most of the leadership, are being held by the security forces.
Friday, visiting U.S. Under Secretary of State Bill Burns urged the government to end the emergency decree. “We believe our friends in Thailand best serve their own interest through a peaceful resolution of political differences,” he said.
Opposition parties had pressed for the emergency to be lifted in Bangkok to allow campaigning for a parliamentary by-election Sunday, where the pro-Thaksin Puea Thai Party is fielding a red shirt candidate now in detention facing terrorism charges.
Jaran Ditapichai, a red shirt leader and former Thai Human Rights Commissioner, said the government’s actions were at odds with its talk of national reconciliation.
In an open letter apparently written abroad, Jaran said more than 300 red shirt leaders were under arrest, 106 people had had their assets frozen and various reconciliation committees were stuffed full of opponents of Thaksin and the red shirts.
“Through such actions, it is impossible to reduce tension,” he wrote.
Additional reporting by Orathai Sriring, Khettiya Jittapong and Ambika Ahuja; Writing by Alan Raybould; Editing by Alex Richardson