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State of emergency in Bangkok lifted

BANGKOK, 24 April 2009: The Thai government today officially lifted the state of emergency in Bangkok and five nearby provinces, almost two weeks after it was imposed to contain street rallies by anti-government protesters.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said the lifting was effective from noon, adding that all the security agencies had given the green light as the situation had returned to normal.

“The government is confident we can maintain the peace and order. This (lifting) is also a good signal to the rest of the world that Thailand is back to normalcy,” the 44-year-old premier told a news conference at his office in Government House, which two weeks ago was besieged by anti-government protesters.

Abhisit first announced the decision to lift the emergency decree after midnight when addressing the two-day joint Parliament session called to discuss the rioting in the capital last week.

The embattled Abhisit declared the state of emergency on 12 April after red- shirted protesters stormed the venue of the 14th Asean Summit and related summits in Pattaya and forced its cancellation. The order also included Samut Prakan, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Nakhon Pathom and Ayutthaya provinces.

On 13 April, thousands of protesters, who set ablaze dozens of buses, clashed with soldiers and local residents in the streets o f Bangkok. At least two people were killed and over 120 injured.

The Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship (DAD), linked to ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, called off the protest on 14 April, nearly three weeks after they besieged the Government House. Three of their leaders are still under police custody.

Bangkok has been calm since the red-shirted protesters ended their protest, and only a few soldiers were manning key government facilities and Abhisit’s house.

Abhisit, whose life was threatened on at least two occasions by the violent protesters, said soldiers would remain in certain area s in the capital, especially in places where clashes had taken place.

“The people in those areas still worry about possible violence. So we decided to keep soldiers in those areas,” he said, adding that the protesters arrested during the state of emergency would be released, except for those facing criminal charges.

The anti-government protesters wanted Abhisit to resign and dissolve the Parliament as they claimed that he was an illegitimate prime minister.   

Abhisit came to power through the parliamentary process last December after Thaksin’s loyalists were booted out by the Constitution Court.

The rioting caused massive losses to the country’s lucrative tourism industry, and further damage to the economy which is facing a bleak year due to the global crisis and possibility of one million people unemployed by year end.

The national carrier, Thai Airways International, announced that its bookings had dropped 20% since the state of emergency was declared while many foreign investors have put their investments in the kingdom on hold.

The number of tourists was expected to drop to 11 million from the projected 14 million. — Bernama


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