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Thai govt considers state of emergency amid growing unrest

Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said on Monday that the government might declare a state of emergency to give a bigger role to the army to help deal with the growing unrest ahead of next month's election.

BANGKOK: The Thai government reiterated on Monday that it was ready to declare a state of emergency if needed, after a weekend of violence in the capital where protesters have been trying for weeks to force Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from power.

Yingluck is under intense pressure from demonstrators, backed by the royalist establishment, to step down after more than two months of street rallies aimed at ousting her government from office and installing an unelected "people's council".

Anti-government protesters besieged government offices in the southern provinces on Monday as part of their campaign to bring down the government, officials said.

Demonstrators blocked the entrances to state offices in 12 provinces in the opposition-dominated south to stop civil servants going to work, officials said.

"Protesters locked the gates and asked officials to leave," said Anucha Romayanan, a spokesman for the Centre for Administration of Peace and Order, set up by the government to oversee the handling of the protests.

Protesters also surrounded a government savings bank in Bangkok.

Yingluck has called an election for February but the main opposition party is boycotting the vote. The protesters are seeking to disrupt the polls and have prevented candidates from registering in some southern constituencies.

The demonstrators have staged a self-styled "shutdown" of Bangkok since January 13, erecting roadblocks and rally stages at several key intersections in the city, although the number of protesters has steadily fallen since the middle of last week.

The mass rallies in Bangkok have sparked several bouts of violence, including grenade attacks and shootings.

Dozens of people were wounded and one killed in grenade attacks by unknown assailants on opposition rallies on Friday and Sunday that heightened fears of growing unrest ahead of next month's election.

Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said on Monday that the government might declare a state of emergency to give a bigger role to the army to help deal with the unrest.

"We cannot allow more violence to happen," he said.

The kingdom has been periodically rocked by political bloodshed since former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck's older brother, was overthrown by royalist generals in a coup seven years ago.

The latest protests were triggered by a failed amnesty bill that could have allowed Thaksin to return without going to jail for a past corruption conviction.

The demonstrators accuse the billionaire telecoms tycoon-turned-politician of controlling his sister's government from his base in Dubai.

Thaksin has strong electoral support in northern Thailand, but he is reviled by many southerners, Bangkok's middle class and members of the royalist establishment.


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