Protest-hit Thailand prolongs security law
AFPBANGKOK -- Thailand on Wednesday extended a special security law for two more months to cope with mass opposition protests aimed at overthrowing Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, a senior official said.
December 26, 2013, 12:13 am TWN
Yingluck has faced weeks of rallies drawing tens of thousands of her opponents onto the streets. They are seeking to oust her elected government and install an unelected “people's council” in its place.
The protests — aimed at curbing the political influence of Yingluck's family — have left five people dead and more than 200 wounded in street violence, although tensions have abated recently.
The special law, known as the Internal Security Act, was widened a month ago to cover the whole of Bangkok and nearby areas.
It gives the police additional powers to block routes, ban gatherings, carry out searches and impose a curfew, although not all the measures have been used.
“The government needs this law to oversee peace and order because there are still protests,” Deputy Defense Minister General Yutthasak Sasiprapa told reporters after the cabinet agreed on a 60-day extension.
Yingluck has called a snap election for Feb. 2 to try to ease tensions, but the main opposition Democrat Party — which has not won an elected majority in about two decades — has vowed to boycott the vote.
The protesters have tried to stop candidates signing up for the election by blocking the entrances to the stadium serving as a registration venue.
Demonstrators tried to force their way into the building on Wednesday, triggering scuffles with police.
Election authorities, however, have expressed confidence that candidates will be able to register in time.
The political conflict broadly pits a Bangkok-based middle class and elite against rural and poor voters loyal to Yingluck's brother Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted as prime minister in a coup in 2006 and lives in self-exile.
The protesters accuse the billionaire tycoon turned politician of corruption and say he controls his sister's government from his base in Dubai.
The recent unrest is the worst since 2010, when more than 90 civilians were killed in a bloody military crackdown on pro-Thaksin protests under the previous Democrat Party-led government.
Pro-Thaksin parties have won every election since 2001, most recently with a landslide victory under Yingluck two years ago.
The protesters want loosely-defined reforms — such as an end to alleged “vote buying” — before new elections are held in around a year to 18 months.
Yingluck on Wednesday proposed a “national reform council” made up of 499 representatives from various sectors to recommend constitutional amendments and economic and legal reforms, as well as anti-corruption measures.
Thai anti government protesters battle with riot policemen as they rally at a stadium to register party-list candidates in Bangkok on Wednesday, Dec. 25. (AFP)