BANGKOK – Thailand has declared a 60-day state of emergency in Bangkok and surrounding areas to tackle mass protests aimed at overthrowing the government, but ruled out using force to end the rallies.
The move follows weeks of mass demonstrations that have paralysed parts of the capital and sparked several bouts of deadly violence, including grenade attacks and shootings.
The last time a state of emergency was imposed in Bangkok, to deal with opposition protests against the previous government in 2010, dozens of people were killed in a bloody military crackdown.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said there was no plan to give the army a leading role under the decree, which will come into force from Wednesday.
"That's why we're focusing on the police force, to avoid violence like in 2010," she told reporters. "The authorities will start with negotiations."
Yingluck is under intense pressure from demonstrators to step down after more than two months of street protests aimed at ousting her elected government and installing an unelected "people's council."
It was not immediately clear how the government would implement the emergency decree, which enables authorities to impose a curfew, ban public gatherings of more than five people, detain suspects for 30 days without charge and censor media.
"We will not use force. We have no policy to disperse them (the protesters) and we haven't announced a curfew yet," said Labour Minister Chalerm Yubamrung, who will oversee its implementation.
Yingluck has called an election for February 2 but the main opposition party is boycotting the vote. AFP