BANGKOK – 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 Abhisit dissolve the government and call elections within 15 days. He has offered to do so by the end of the year.
"The government has tried its best to enforce the law, but violations of the law have increased," Abhisit said in a televised statement that interrupted regular programming. "Our main goal is to bring the country back to normal and make our law sacred once again." He did not spell out how the emergency decree will be applied.
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 the government to impose curfews, ban public gatherings of more than five people, censor and ban media from disseminating news that "causes panic." It also allows security officials to detain suspects without charge for up to 30 days.
The so-called Red Shirt protesters, who contend Abhisit came to power illegitimately, have been camped in Bangkok since March 12 and have ignored all other decrees for them to stop their demonstrations.
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