Protest-hit Thailand prolongs special security law


BANGKOK: Thailand on Wednesday extended a special security law for two more months to cope with mass opposition protests aimed at overthrowing Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, a senior official said.

Yingluck has faced weeks of rallies drawing tens of thousands of her opponents onto the streets. They are seeking to oust her elected government and install an unelected “people’s council” in its place.

The protests—aimed at curbing the political influence of Yingluck’s family—have left five people dead and more than 200 wounded in street violence, although tensions have abated recently.

The special law, known as the Internal Security Act, was widened a month ago to cover the whole of Bangkok and nearby areas.

It gives the police additional powers to block routes, ban gatherings, carry out searches and impose a curfew, although not all the measures have been used.

“The government needs this law to oversee peace and order because there are still protests,” Deputy Defense Minister General Yutthasak Sasiprapa told reporters after the cabinet agreed on a 60-day extension.

Yingluck has called a snap election for February 2 to try to ease tensions, but the main opposition Democrat Party—which has not won an elected majority in about two decades—has vowed to boycott the vote.

The protesters have tried to stop candidates signing up for the election by blocking the entrances to the stadium serving as a registration venue.

Demonstrators tried to force their way into the building on Wednesday, triggering scuffles with police.

Election authorities, however, have expressed confidence that candidates will be able to register in time.

The political conflict broadly pits a Bangkok-based middle class and elite against rural and poor voters loyal to Yingluck’s brother Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted as prime minister in a coup in 2006 and lives in self-exile.

The protesters accuse the billionaire tycoon turned politician of corruption and say he controls his sister’s government from his base in Dubai.


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