Thailand’s prime minister has invoked an emergency law as heated anti-government demonstrations continue. The move came after protesters occupied parts of the Finance and Foreign ministries.
The law allows police to seal off roads, impose curfews, ban gatherings and carry out searches. Despite employing the emergency law on Monday, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra indicated that she was still hopeful the protests would remain largely violence-free.
"While the government will enforce the laws, it will not use force against the people," Yingluck said.
"The government would like to ask people not to join illegal protests and to respect the law," she added.
Yingluck's decision came after protesters marched on government agencies across Bangkok on Monday, with police putting the crowd's number at about 30,000.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban led hundreds of demonstrators to the compounds of the Finance and Foreign ministries, urging the crowd not to destroy anything but to "make them see this is people's power." The ministries were two of a number of protest targets, including several television stations.
It is the latest show of condemnation for Yingluck's government. Protesters want Yingluck to step down, claiming the country is instead being run by her brother Thaksin. Now in exile, he served as Thailand's prime minister from 2001 to 2006 before being overthrown in a military coup amid accusations of corruption.
His sister was elected in 2011, but has been dogged by claims of Thaksin's influence. The latest protests were sparked by a bill that would have granted amnesty to Thaksin. It has since been temporarily abandoned.
People show power
Monday's protests came a day after around 100,000 peaceful anti- and pro- government demonstrators marched in Bangkok.
It was estimated the crowds had swelled to about 400,000 by Sunday night, having been bolstered in their number by many from the south of Thailand, where the opposition Democratic Party has strong support.
The Democratic Party has played a key role in organizing the protests, and will challenge the government with a no-confidence debate in parliament on Tuesday.
The protests have been relatively peaceful to date, but on Monday the United States expressed concern over news that the ministries had been stormed. The bloody scenes of 2010 protests in which more than 90 civilians date loom large as tensions escalate.
"We urge all sides to refrain from violence, exercise restraint, and respect the rule of law. Violence and the seizure of public or private property are not acceptable means of resolving political differences," US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
ph/mkg (AP, AFP, Reuters)