Thailand still unstable

The Thai government extended for
three months a state of emergency in the capital and 18 provinces in the wake
of bloody, anti-government demonstrations that pushed the country close to

The cabinet agreed that there remained
“situations that require close monitoring and surveillance” in
Bangkok and the 18 provinces — mostly in the northeast, home to many of the
so-called Red Shirt demonstrators who descended on Bangkok, Minister to the
Prime Minister’s Office Ongart Klampaiboon told reporters. The special law was
lifted in five provinces.

The cabinet resolution challenged a
proposal by the key security agency, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Suthep
Thaugsuban, urging that the decree remain in force without exception.

A state of emergency was initially
declared in Bangkok and in some nearby provinces on 7 April. The government ultimately
imposed it to cover Bangkok and 23 provinces — almost one-third of the
country’s provinces.

Sporadic violence has continued in
the country since the end of the demonstrations on 19 May, when the army moved
into an area of central Bangkok occupied by the Red Shirts.

Nearly 90 people — most of them
protesters — were killed and more than 1,400 were injured during nine weeks of
massive demonstrations.

International human rights groups
have criticized the emergency decrees, which give the prime minister power to
overrule any state agency, civilian or military. One of the most contentious
provisions allows officials to arrest and detain individuals for up to 30 days
outside the normal criminal justice system.

“Thailand has never seen this
kind of situation,” said Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher for the New
York-based Human Rights Watch. “A large number of protesters have been detained
but no one knows the exact figures, or even their whereabouts.”

Although not formally charged,
detainees are not guaranteed legal representation or visits from family


A defaced portrait of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is seen in front of the arson attack on the Thailand’s biggest shopping mall in Bangkok, Thailand.
Photo: File