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Asean Affairs  21 December 2010

Thailand’s emergency decree is gone

By  David Swartzentruber
AseanAffairs     21 December 2010

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In Bangkok the weather is beautiful, meaning temperatures are lower and there is little rain, and the Emergency Decree that has been in place in Bangkok since the red shirt protests in April has been lifted.

The only noticeable difference to the public may be that the young soldiers stationed at subway and Skytrain stations can no return to their barracks. For a few months this fall there were scattered bombings around the city but those have disappeared when a bomber accidentally blew himself up and a clutch of alleged bombers were arrested.

The Emergency Decree is to be replaced by the Internal Security Act complete with a monitoring centre supervised by the Army Chief-of-Staff, perhaps suggesting that the government is still a bit uneasy. In addition, 104 red shirt protesters that have been imprisoned on minor charges are expected to be bailed out.

The red shirts continue to hold peaceful protests at Ratchaprasong intersection on the 10th and 19th of the month. The last protest two days ago, attracted 10,000 and snarled traffic but apparently the police are willing to overlook that in exchange for nonviolent behavior on the part of the throng.

Recent by-elections gave some positive signs to the ruling coalition headed by the Democrat Party. The government has been providing more social welfare programs and raising wage levels, perhaps indicating that a new general election may be on the way in the spring. It’s about time for a normal event, like a general election, to be held in Thailand.

During the red shirt protest a visitor from the Netherlands asked this writer what was Thailand’s favorite sport. I replied football (soccer). And he wittingly replied, “No it’s not, it’s protests.”

Paul A. Ebeling, Jnr

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