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State of Emergency in Bangkok – clashes expected

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As Thailand’s latest political crisis escalates a state of emergency has been declared in Bangkok and its surrounding six provinces in an attempt to restore order to the capital. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva declared a state of emergency on Sunday after red shirted protesters from the United front for democracy, against dictatorship (UDD) forced the cancellation of the ASEAN+3 summit in Pattaya Saturday.

Protests from the group, led by fugitive and exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra have turned ugly after a mob of 10,000 stormed the Royal Cliff Beach Resort in Pattaya amid inadequate police security, forcing the airlift evacuation of heads of state and a major embarrassment for the crisis wracked country.

Bangkok remains at risk of violent clashes as the army are now set to be deployed and bring the situation under control. The protests, crucially, have moved from key administrative sites in the Dusit area, into the city proper as they try to block key roads and incite anarchy. They are demanding the government step down, accusing them of being illegitimate, while Thaksin himself is urging a revolution.

Several countries have issue travel advisory warnings and tourists are advised to avoid Bangkok for the time being as violent clashes between the army and this group of some 100,000 are anticipated Monday. Until now the government has been reluctant to use the army or heavy handed discipline on the protestors, fearful of losing face and credibility among the general population.

Following the Pattaya siege, the current crisis has lurched to an unprecedented level, reminiscent of the airport seizure last year, with mob rule becoming a popular tool for groups to voice dissatisfaction at the current political landscape. With the standoff reaching critical levels uncertainty remains in the capital, and unfolding events there might spill out to Northern and Northeastern provinces, including Chiang Mai.

The Southern provinces of Thailand remain peaceful and without risk but transport might be severely disrupted as the crisis unfolds.

The present government came to power four months ago after the ruling party was dissolved for vote fraud. MPs from a key factions of the party crossed the floor to help the opposition form a minority led coalition, which the protestors are refusing to acknowledge. Thaksin Shinawatra has been fighting to reverse his corruption convictions, unblock frozen assets and return to power, and has the support of the UDD.

No solution seems in sight for the political crisis and it is likely to cost the country a loss of more than 200 billion baht in lost tourism revenue.

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