Thailand's Constitutional Court has agreed to look into a contentious issue of postponing the Feb 2 general election as anti-government protesters marched across the capital in defiance of the recently invoked emergency decree.
The country's election commission, which is seeking to postpone the election because of protest-induced disruptions, had asked the court to decide on whether this was possible and which party had the authority to do so.
The Puea Thai party-run caretaker government, which stands to win a fresh mandate from the polls, contends that neither it nor the election commission has the power to postpone the election.
The court's decision comes two days after the authorities declared a state of emergency in Bangkok and its surrounds to contain prolonged protests aimed at suspending elections until political reforms are carried out under a "people's council".
Over the past two months, protesters have disrupted election registration, rallied at a printing house for ballot papers, and also intimidated civil servants to get them to stop work in their bid to unseat the caretaker government helmed by Ms Yingluck Shinawatra. They accuse the premier of being a puppet of her brother Thaksin Shinawatra, himself a premier until ousted by a military coup in 2006.
On Jan 13, protesters began blockading major intersections in Bangkok to "shut down" the city. But unknown individuals have been attacking protesters at rally sites, and one person was killed and more than 50 people injured in two grenade attacks last Friday and Sunday.
On Wednesday, a prominent pro-government "red shirt" leader was shot in northern province of Udon Thani, raising fears of violence spreading through the country.
Protesters, meanwhile, have vowed to defy the emergency decree. Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban on Thursday led a march across Bangkok for the first time since the decree was invoked, to loud cheers from city dwellers who had lined the streets.