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 24 Apr 2009

State of emergency in Thai capital ends today

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Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva announced that he would lift a state of emergency in Bangkok on Friday, saying that his government wanted reconciliation after violent street protests, reported AFP.

Abhisit imposed emergency rule in the capital and five surrounding provinces on April 12 after rallies against his government disrupted a summit of Asian leaders in the coastal city of Pattaya and then spread to Bangkok.

Two people were killed and 123 injured as protesters clashed with troops despite the state of emergency, ending only on April 14 when they abandoned a three-week sit-in outside Abhisit's offices fearing a military crackdown.

"Today I intend to lift the state of emergency. At first I wanted to announce it in the morning (of Thursday) but as it is already past midnight it is considered a new day," Abhisit told a special sitting of parliament.

"Lifting the state of emergency is part of measures to find a solution for the country. The government wants to show its sincerity, that the government wants reconciliation and to make the country move forwards," he added.

The parliamentary sitting was held to find ways of healing the bitter political divide between Abhisit and his opponents, the so-called "Red Shirt" movement largely loyal to ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Authorities have issued warrants for the arrest of Thaksin -- who was toppled in a coup in 2006 and lives in exile -- and 12 other allies for allegedly inciting the protests in Pattaya, before the emergency was imposed.

"After the lifting of the state of emergency all the suspects that have been detained under (emergency) law will be released, but those held under criminal cases would have to go before the law," Abhisit said.

A government minister had earlier this week said that a fresh Red Shirt rally planned outside the emergency zone on Saturday would mean that the state of emergency would be prolonged.

The protest is due to take place in Samut Sakhon province, 36 kilometres (22 miles) outside Bangkok.

On Monday Jakrapob Penkair, a senior Red Shirt leader, told AFP from an unknown foreign location that the group would continue their campaign against Abhisit.

The Red Shirts want Abhisit to quit and call elections, saying that he came to power unfairly in December after a court toppled Thaksin's allies from power.

Police are meanwhile still hunting the gunmen behind an assassination attempt on Sondhi Limthongkul, the founder of the rival "Yellow Shirts" movement which led a blockade of Bangkok's airports last year.

The airport siege ended after the court ruling that helped bring Abhisit to power. Thai army chief Anupong Paojinda admitted Thursday that three bullets used in the attack came from a military unit.





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