Monday, 31 May 2010

Same, Same- Thankfully

BANGKOK (AFP) -- Thailand's prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Sunday the country appeared to have returned to "normal" with the lifting of a curfew imposed in the wake of deadly anti-government protests.

The premier lifted the curfew Saturday but said emergency rule was still necessary after two months of mass rallies by "Red Shirt" demonstrators that paralysed the capital and left almost 90 people dead.

"The situation last night was normal. Authorities will keep an eye though, then we'll consider lifting the state of emergency," Abhisit said in his weekly television address.

The Reds' street rallies, which were broken up by the army on May 19, sparked several outbreaks of violence that left 88 people dead, mostly civilians, and nearly 1,900 injured.

After the army crackdown, unrest spread to several cities in the Red Shirts' stronghold in Thailand's impoverished northeast, and a curfew was imposed in Bangkok and 23 provinces, out of a total of 76.

Authorities on Tuesday extended a midnight-to-4:00 am curfew for four more nights as the government sought to restore order.

Anyone violating the curfew had faced up to two years in jail. The measures made life hard for people who usually work during the night and put a damper on the capital's normally lively nightlife.

The Red Shirts, many of whose leaders have been arrested and are in police custody, were campaigning for elections because they consider Abhisit's government elitist and undemocratic.

Thailand declared a state of emergency in Bangkok on April 7 after protesters stormed parliament in an escalation of their street rallies.

A Thai court last Tuesday approved an arrest warrant for fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on terrorism charges, which carry a maximum penalty of death, in connection with the violent protests.

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