03/14/2006, 00.00
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Premier threatens to impose state of emergency

The decree is at hand in case protests in the capital "turn violent". Hundreds of thousands of people continue to protest, calling for the resignation of Thaksin Shinawatra.

Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Thai Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, has said he is prepared to declare a state of emergency if mass protests against him in Bangkok turn violent. "I am ready to sign the decree if the situation becomes violent," he told reporters today before entering a Cabinet meeting via teleconference in Ubon province. Thaksin said a prepared decree is already in his hands. A state of emergency would allow authorities to detain suspects for up to 30 days without charge, search and arrest without warrants, and tap phones, among other powers. All in all, it would grant considerably immunity to the security forces.

According to unofficial statistics, more than 100,000 protesters rallied in the capital outside the Royal Palace last night, in a peaceful atmosphere. Demonstrators have threatened to camp outside the prime minister's office until he steps down. This is the fifth such demonstration in as many weeks. More than 2,000 police were mobilized in front of the Government House to prevent the crowd from disrupting the ministerial meeting.

Most of the protesters are from the middle class. Security forces predict possible clashes today when a counter rally takes place, which will see people coming from rural areas to Bangkok to back the premier; through a range of measures, he has gained the support of the less wealthy and the rural masses.

Since the end of January, the opposition has been holding regular rallies against the prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, a businessman turned politician who stands accused by protesters of corruption, bad management of the Islamic insurrection in the south of the country, and of media censorship. In a bid to defuse the crisis, the premier, elected in 2001 and triumphantly re-elected in 2005, dissolved parliament on 24 February and called legislative elections on 2 April, which the opposition has decided to boycott.

The Thai daily, The Nation, reported today that high level negotiations were taking place to ease the political crisis by changing the prime minister. The potentials include deputy prime minister, Surakiart Sathirathai.

Even the king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, appears to be calling, albeit indirectly, for a peaceful solution through dialogue. On 12 March, state television suspended programming to transmit archived material featuring the king intervening in the 1992 violent rallies and calling on leaders of the revolt to resolve the political crisis through negotiations. The television initiative has been interpreted as a message to the premier and his rivals to hold talks to find a solution.

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See also
Anti-government protests stop "out of respect for the crown"
Religious leaders urge calm amid storm of protests
Martial law in Bangkok
Bangkok, premier Samak declares a state of emergency
Thailand’s Constitutional Court keeps Prayut in power


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