Thai junta chief calls for emergency rule in Bangkok
Thailand's junta chief General Sonthi Boonyaratglin said Wednesday that he has asked the government to declare emergency rule in Bangkok to crack down on anti-coup protesters.
"I have proposed to the prime minister that he invoke emergency rule in order to maintain law and order," Sonthi told AFP in a telephone interview.
Anti-coup protesters have been holding weekly rallies against the junta, attracting a small but growing crowd that reached 2,000 people last Friday.
The protests have so far been peaceful, but Sonthi said he was afraid the protest movement could gather steam, much like the mass street demonstrations last year that eventually led to the coup against then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
"I have consulted with the prime minister on the current situation and have explained to him that this current situation would lead to mutiny and chaos in the country," he told AFP.
"It's up to the prime minister" to decide on whether to declare emergency rule in the capital, he said.
Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont has the power to declare emergency rule with his cabinet's approval. The government has kept three southern provinces hit by an Islamic insurgency under emergency rule since mid-2005.
Sonthi made the call just two months after martial law was lifted in Bangkok. He had imposed martial law on Thailand immediately after seizing power on September 19, but has now lifted it across half the country.
Declaring emergency rule would give authorities many of the same powers they had under martial law.
The government would be able to detain suspects without charge for 30 days, and would have the power to seize and destroy anything deemed a threat to national security or to impede the work of the authorities.
Emergency rule also gives the government tough censorship powers as well as the right to impose a curfew and to ban public gatherings, while giving security forces broad immunity from prosecution.
Use of the provision in Thailand's south has been broadly condemned by human rights groups, who say it creates a climate of impunity that has worsened the conflict there.