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Asia

Thai government extends state of emergency

Thailand's government has extended the state of emergency. In nearly one third of the country, including the capital Bangkok, a number of restrictions will remain in force for another three months.

Bangkok remains under a state of emergency

Bangkok remains under a state of emergency

The state of emergency was imposed in April across Thailand including the capital Bangkok after mass opposition protests. The decree puts a ban on public gatherings and gives the security forces special powers including the right to detain suspects for 30 days without charge.

On Tuesday, the government lifted the emergency in just five provinces, which it thinks are relatively stable. The rest, especially those in the northeast, the stronghold of the Red Shirt protestors, will remain under close surveillance for at least another three months.

"I think the Thai government wants to buy time in a way to pacify the country," says Marco Buente, an expert at the Institute of Asian Studies in Hamburg. "On the one hand to prevent new protests from taking place and on the other hand use this time also to speed up the reconciliation process."

Red Shirts during their protests in Bangkok in May

Red Shirts during their protests in Bangkok in May

Reassurances to the international community

Thousands of demonstrators, mostly from rural areas, gathered in the capital's main commercial centre in April and May to protest against the present government, claiming it was illegitimate and lacked popular mandate. They demanded fresh elections. Their negotiations with the government failed and the nine weeks of protests took a deadly turn when protestors and security forces clashed. At least ninety people were killed and almost 2,000 were injured in the chaos that revealed the deep divisions in the country on the issue.

The unrest sparked widespread international concern, prompting many countries to issue travel advisories to their citizens.

Now as Thailand gradually returns to stability, the Bangkok government has been trying to reassure the international community that it is committed to strengthen democracy. On Monday Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya met his German counterpart Guido Westerwelle in Berlin.

"I have come to reassure my German colleagues of our firm intention and determination to push democracy forward, to push the rules of law, to have good governance and transparency and to move quickly towards the national reconciliation to reform the social, the economic and the political regimes of Thailand," said Kasit, while addressing a joint press conference.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle with his Thai counterpart Kasit Piromya in Berlin

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle with his counterpart Kasit Piromya in Berlin

Five point plan

He informed the German foreign minister about the five point plan for national reconciliation that his government thinks is necessary to bring stability to the country. The plan envisages far-reaching reforms to address issues such as social injustice and constitutional amendments and also includes the establishment of a fact-finding commission to look into the violence last May.

"We hope that the recommendation would be submitted to the people, to the parliament towards the end of this year and hopefully the people can go to a referendum to decide and to approve a new constitution or a set of amendments to the constitution so that the existing parliament could be dissolved, and a new election could be held and hopefully we will have a new elected government in Thailand by early spring," said Kasit.

For his part, Guido Westerwelle said that the German government and people were very concerned about the Thai crisis and that they were optimistic about the Thai government's reconciliation plan. "Germany supports the Thai government on its path to a lasting solution to the crisis," he said. "The five-point plan presented by the prime minister is a good basis."

In a bid to gauge the public mood, the Thai government has also launched a hotline. The aim of this campaign is to get suggestions from people on the government's proposed national reconciliation plan. Sensible suggestions will be incorporated in the government's 'national reform' blueprint that it plans to present to the public by January next year.

Author: Disha Uppal
Editor: Grahame Lucas

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