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Terrorism & Security

State of emergency declared in Bangkok

As the confrontation between the government and opposition escalates, the ruling party is slapped with charges of electoral fraud.

By Huma Yusuf / September 2, 2008

Thailand's Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej spoke during a news conference at the Supreme Command Headquarters in Bangkok on Sept. 2.

Reuters

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On Tuesday, Thailand's Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej declared a state of emergency in Bangkok after clashes between government supporters and opposition party members left one person dead in the worst violence seen in the city in 16 years. The violence flared as Mr. Samak's ruling People Power Party (PPP) faced charges of electoral fraud in the courts and escalating pressure from the opposition People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which has been occupying the prime minister's office for the past week.

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According to the BBC, fighting started early Tuesday.

Mr. Samak has stated that the state of emergency is expected to remain in effect for a brief period. Curfew has not been enforced, but the emergency prevents gatherings of more than five people and puts limitations on media coverage that may "undermine public security."

The street clashes are an escalation of an ongoing confrontation between the government and PAD protesters. Fighting is expected to intensify on Wednesday, the International Herald Tribune reports.

According to The New York Times, the PAD is demonstrating against Samak and his government for being proxies for former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that "Thailand's shaky democracy and the future role of elites aligned with the monarchy and the military" are at stake in this confrontation between the government and PAD supporters.

An opinion piece in the Bangkok Post, an English-language Thai daily, states that Samak's power has been waning in the face of PAD protests.

The Guardian reports that in a fresh blow to the government, Samak's party was accused of electoral fraud on Tuesday. A five-member panel of the Election Commission recommended that the Supreme Court disband the PPP over claims of vote-buying in last December's general election. Although the recommendation will not lead to immediate action against the party – it must first be considered by the public prosecutor's office, a process that might take months – it further undermines Samak's credibility. If the prosecutor submits the case to the courts and the ruling is upheld, Samak and other party leaders would be banned from politics for five years.

The Bangkok Post also reports that Thai and foreign business leaders are concerned that the state of emergency will lead to widespread economic losses as investor confidence is shaken.

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