Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva declared a state of emergency in Bangkok on Wednesday, handing the army broad powers to restore order after anti-government protesters broke into Parliament, forcing some lawmakers to flee by helicopter.
Other lawmakers scaled the compound’s walls to escape the most chaotic protest in several weeks of demonstrations by a group demanding Mr. Abhisit dissolve the government and call immediate elections. He has offered to do so by the end of the year.
“The government has tried its best to implement the law, but violations have increased. Today, Parliament was raided,” Mr. Abhisit said in a televised statement that interrupted regular programming.
“The Cabinet has decided to declare state of emergency in Bangkok and nearby provinces,” Mr. Abhisit said, seated at the centre of a long table with the members of his Cabinet beside him. “Our goal is to restore normalcy.”
The government already had placed Bangkok under the strict Internal Security Act.
But a state of emergency includes more sweeping powers. It gives the military authority to restore order and allows authorities to suspend certain civil liberties and ban all public gatherings of more than five people.
The so-called Red Shirt protesters have been camped in Bangkok since March 12 and have ignored all other decrees for them to stop their demonstrations.
Mr. Abhisit has become the target of harsh criticism for failing to take strong measures to end the protests. He has tried negotiations, and has had security forces pull back from possible confrontations.
In a statement broadcast on all television stations on Tuesday, he explained that “the current fragile situation demands careful manoeuvring.”
“We need to plan and implement everything to the last detail and with thorough care. The last thing we want is for the situation to spiral out of control.”
Keywords: sweeping powers emergency,