Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda declared a state of emergency in Phuket in southern Thailand yesterday after 50,000 people protesting plans to open a chemical plant set fire to the factory and a hotel. Protesters blocked fire trucks trying to get to the fires, officials reported. No injuries were reported at the tantalum ore refinery or at the hotel. Police said they arrested 20 suspected rioters.
The decree gives the police and the military the power to search and seize suspects, and the Phuket governor the authority to impose a curfew.
The government is expected to decide in early July whether to allow the plant to operate.