Thailand Lifts Emergency Decree as Bangkok Protests Ease

Thailand’s government agreed to end a state of emergency in Bangkok to help lure tourists back to the capital following months of anti-government protests.

An emergency decree imposed Jan. 22 will be lifted tomorrow, Deputy Prime Minister Yukol Limlamthong told reporters in Bangkok. The government will instead use an internal security law to combat any further violence, Yukol said today.

Protests that began in late October to oust Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra shut down parts of Bangkok and sparked clashes that killed 23 people, prompting tourists to cancel trips during the traditional high season. The unrest may cause the economy to contract this year, and tourism may take three months to recover, the Thai Chamber of Commerce said today.

“A number of businesses have asked for the state of emergency to be lifted because of its impact on foreign tourists,” Yingluck told reporters. “We have seen in the past that violence doesn’t solve problems, so we will use the Internal Security Act and focus on law enforcement.”

Thailand’s Civil Court ruled Feb. 19 that the state of emergency wasn’t needed, and ordered the government not to use force against protesters. The decree bans gatherings of more than five people, allows detention without charge and gives soldiers immunity from prosecution. The Internal Security Act allows authorities to close roads, make arrests and take action against security threats.

Political tension eased early this month after demonstrators removed blockades at four major intersections and moved to a new protest site at Lumpini Park in central Bangkok.

Yingluck has so far withstood the pressure and remains in power after calling elections in February to seek to defuse the crisis. Results of that vote, boycotted by the main opposition party, are yet to be tallied and Yingluck’s opponents are now stepping up efforts to use the courts to dislodge the premier.

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