October 1, 2010 / 7:38 AM / in 8 years

Thailand lifts emergency decree in more provinces

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand lifted emergency rule in three provinces on Friday but kept the controversial security law in Bangkok, where the government said the situation remained volatile months after the latest round of political violence.

Ninety one people were killed and nearly 2,000 wounded in clashes in central Bangkok in April and May between security forces and protesters demanding an early election.

“The government will extend (the decree) in Bangkok and metropolitan provinces given the risk of instability,” said government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn.

Rights groups and activists say the decree is unconstitutional and is being used by the government to push its agenda and stifle its opponents.

Panitan said the extension of emergency rule in Bangkok and four surrounding provinces will be proposed for formal approval by the cabinet on Tuesday before its term expires on October 5.

Bangkok has been plagued by minor bombings being linked to the country’s political crisis, although no one has claimed responsibility and few arrests have been made. Police have said some incidents may have been linked to personal or business conflicts.

Among the latest targets were the Attorney General’s Office and a Bangkok race track closely associated with the military and the establishment elite. No one was wounded in either blast.

RED RESURGENCE?

The resurgence of the anti-government “red shirts” is one of the biggest political risks in Southeast Asia’s second biggest economy, which is projected to grow 7.5 percent this year, the strongest in 13 years. The movement held a rally of more than 10,000 people in Bangkok on September 19, despite the emergency laws.

The Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation, an ad hoc body set up to manage the political crisis, has reported 36 bombings or discoveries of explosives since the protest ended on May 19. Police say security has now been stepped up.

“We are on alert and authorities have become more vigilant. We urge the public to call in with any suspicious activities,” National police chief, General Wichien Pojphosri, told reporters.

But the law has drawn criticism from businesses, tour operators and rights groups, which have urged the government to withdraw the decree. It bans political gatherings of more than five people and allows media censorship and detention of suspects without charge for up to 30 days.

“The extraordinary powers (the decree) grants to curtail human rights have often been abused to block the expression of peaceful dissenting views,” London-based Amnesty International said in a statement on Thursday.

Writing by Ambika Ahuja; Editing by Martin Petty and Tomasz Janowski

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