Thai state of emergency still in place

A Thai court on Friday refused to grant an injunction sought by anti-government protesters against the emergency decree invoked last week in Bangkok and the surrounding regions.

The decree came into effect last Wednesday, as the embattled caretaker government sought to contain three-month-long protests in the run-up the general election on Sunday. Although security authorities now have wide-ranging powers to censor the media, ban political gatherings of more than five people and prohibit entry into designated places, they have not tried to disperse protesters blockading key intersections in the capital in their bid to force the caretaker government out.

The Civil Court is due to hear a case on the legality of the emergency decree, filed by one of the protest leaders, Mr Taworn Senneam, on Feb 6. But it refused to grant his request for an injunction on the decree while the case is pending.

Protester have been camped out on the streets since late October in order to force the resignation of caretaker prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, whom they allege is a proxy of her brother Thaksin Shinawatra. The self-exiled former premier was ousted by a military coup in 2006, but is still deemed to have a big say over how the country is run.

As Ms Yingluck’s Puea Thai party is widely expected to be returned to power in Sunday’s election, the demonstrators have been blocking election officials and advance voters in a bid to sabotage the polls.

Shootings, bombings and other violent incidents have been increasing in frequency over the past few weeks in the capital and it is feared that they may escalate as protesters attempt to block voting on Sunday.

About 130,000 policemen are expected to be deployed nationwide alongside military personnel to oversee voting on Sunday. Most of the opposition, however, is expected in Bangkok and southern Thailand, the strongholds of the opposition Democrat Party which is boycotting the polls.

tanhy@sph.com.sg