Thai government extends state of emergency in Bangkok

A Thai soldier stands guard at Government House, Bangkok (25 May 2010) A state of emergency will remain in the Thai capital for a further three months

The Thai government has extended a state of emergency in 19 provinces, including the capital Bangkok, because of fears of renewed violence.

The emergency decree was revoked in five other provinces, after a three-month deadline expired.

The law was imposed during mass anti-government protests earlier this year in which 90 people were killed.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told the BBC on Monday that there would be a gradual lifting of emergency law.

Under emergency rule, public gatherings of more than five people are banned and security forces have the right to detain suspects for 30 days without charge.

More than 400 people have been arrested.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva: "We need to restore order now"

There have been calls by human rights organisations to lift what they describe as a "draconian" law, saying it risks driving opposition underground.

The five provinces where emergency rule has been lifted are Si Sa Ket, Kalasin, Nan, Nakhon Sawan and Nakhon Pathom, located in north, north-east and central Thailand.

There are 76 provinces in Thailand.

'Legitimate frustrations'

The BBC's Alastair Leithead in Bangkok said things appear to have largely returned to normal after anti-government protesters took over part of the capital demanding new elections.

But the government said there were still fears of instability as weapons taken from security forces during a riot in April had not been recovered.

ANALYSIS

Alastair Leithead

Bangkok has largely returned to normal after weeks of anti-government protests were ended by the military, but the government has decided to extend the State of Emergency in the capital and 18 other provinces because of fears of further demonstrations and possible violence.

There is still considerable anger in the north-east of the country where the so-called red-shirt movement originates, and weapons abandoned by troops during riots in April have not been recovered.

Those calling for new elections say the emergency decree is stopping them from continuing their demonstrations, and the government's position has been criticised by human rights groups and academics who argue stifling the voice of opposition could drive it underground and provoke violence.

"We have been informed there are people who continue to try to spread false information to spur hatred and instigate unrest," said Ongart Klampaiboon, minister to the prime minister's office, after the ruling.

The Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations (Cres) had recommended that emergency rule be extended across all affected provinces.

The Cres is made up of representatives from the armed forces, police and government ministries; key roles are held by military nominees.

It was set up to manage the government's response to the so-called red-shirt anti-government protests in April and May.

The demonstrations were broken up by the military after violent clashes which left 90 dead and more than 2,000 injured.

Mr Abhisit has said he is beginning a process of reconciliation.

The International Crisis Group has warned that the "legitimate frustrations" of the anti-government movement were "being forced underground and possibly towards illegal and violent actions".

The think tank called for the release of all those detained, and for an end to the "sweeping ban" on opposition media outlets.

A member of the "red-shirt" movement, currently in hiding in Thailand, has warned an underground group is already training in bomb-making.

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