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Thailand to end state of emergency as protests ease

AFP-JIJI

Thailand announced Tuesday the end of a nearly two-month-long state of emergency in Bangkok and surrounding areas, hoping to lure back foreign visitors following an easing of deadly political protests.

The use of emergency rule dealt a heavy blow to Thailand’s key tourism industry during what is usually the peak season, and also raised fears of a drop in foreign investment.

The state of emergency will be replaced by another special law, the Internal Security Act, which will be in effect from Wednesday until April 30, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s office announced.

“We’re confident that we can handle the situation so the Cabinet agreed to revoke the state of emergency as requested by many parties,” Yingluck told reporters.

“The cancellation is to build confidence in the economy and the tourism sector,” she said.

Yingluck has faced more than four months of political protests aimed at ousting her elected government and installing an unelected “people’s council” to oversee reforms.

The state of emergency was introduced in the run-up to a Feb. 2 general election called by the premier in an unsuccessful attempt to calm the crisis.

Political bloodshed, often targeting protesters, left 23 people dead and hundreds wounded in recent months, including in grenade attacks and shootings.

However, attendance at the demonstrations has fallen sharply in recent weeks while the introduction of emergency rule failed to prevent protesters disrupting the February election.

The protesters late last month moved to scale back their rallies, consolidating at one site in Bangkok’s Lumpini Park as they ended their so-called Bangkok shutdown, which had seen them occupy key intersections in the city.

Thailand has been periodically rocked by mass demonstrations staged by rival protest groups since a military coup in 2006 that ousted then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra — Yingluck’s brother.

Her opponents say she is a puppet for Thaksin, a billionaire tycoon-turned-politician who fled overseas in 2008 to avoid prison for a corruption conviction.

The February election has not been completed in some areas because of disruption by the protests, leaving Yingluck’s government in a caretaker role with limited powers.