— After weeks of demonstrations that saw glitzy shopping malls blocked,
blood splattered on the prime minister’s residence and tourism dented,
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva made the move after
anti-government protesters broke into parliament, leading some
lawmakers to make a dramatic rooftop escape aboard a
“Red shirt” protesters who oppose the current government, as opposed to the “yellow shirts” in
color-coded political system who generally favor the status quo, are
calling for the dissolution of parliament and a new election within 15
In response to the emergency decree, red shirt
leaders urged supporters to stay in place, wait for the military to
arrive and prepare for another major rally Friday.
Abhisit, struggling with a weak political mandate,
offered his reasoning for the decree in a televised statement that
broke into scheduled programming.
“The government has tried its best to enforce the
law, but violations of the law have increased,” the Oxford-educated
leader said. “Our main goal is to bring the country back to normal and
make our law sacred once again.”
The prime minister didn’t explain how the emergency decree would be applied.
was already under the Internal Security Act, but a state of emergency
allows the government to impose curfews, ban public gatherings of more
than five people, restrict or ban media coverage of news likely to
“cause panic” and detain suspects without being charged for up to 30
The government has blinked in the protracted standoff, said Thongchai Winichakul, a professor at the
“They can arrest or suppress the crowd, but they
still have a problem with legitimacy and how to rule,” he said. “I
don’t see any good outcome.”
A key determinant in the political brinkmanship
between the two sides will be the support they gain from the public and
the army, a powerful force in politics.
The red shirts, who draw much of their strength from farmers and laborers largely left out of
The protesters, already emboldened by the impact of
such tactics, might gain even more ground if the government’s efforts
to contain them fail and Abhisit thus looks even weaker. However, they
run the risk of alienating significant segments of the society if
things turn violent.
“It’s a lose-lose situation for all,” said Winichakul. “The best hope is to find a compromise.”
Many red shirts support ex-Prime Minister Thaksin
Shinawatra who was ousted in a coup in 2006. His overthrow has led to
deep political divisions in Thai society that have hurt the country’s
economy, tourism trade and international reputation.
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