Thailand’s government on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in Bangkok and surrounding areas to cope with protests that have stirred up violent attacks.

Labour Minister Chalerm Yubumrung announced that the measure would take effect Wednesday and continue for 60 days.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, in a speech to followers, questioned whether the declaration was justified, saying the demonstrators had peaceful.

“Is it right for them to use the emergency decree to declare a state of emergency to come and deal with us? Come and get us,” he declared to an enthusiastic crowd of hundreds at a park in downtown Bangkok. Thousands more are encamped at other locations in the capital.

The emergency decree greatly expands the power of security forces to issue orders and search, arrest and detain people, with limited judicial and parliamentary oversight. The areas covered had already been placed under tougher-than-normal security under the country’s Internal Security Act.

The protesters have been demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to make way for an appointed government to implement reforms to fight corruption. Mr Yingluck called elections on Feb. 2 but the protesters are insisting they not be held.

The opposition Democrat Party, closely aligned with the protesters, is boycotting the polls.

The official announcement of the emergency decree said the elections would proceed as planned.

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