No official discussion on lifting emergency decree
March 12, 2014 00:00 By The Nation
The Cabinet has not discussed the issue of lifting the Bangkok emergency decree, which gives security agencies some more time to evaluate the situation, caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said after the Cabinet meeting yesterday.
Caretaker Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul, who is also chief adviser to the Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order, said the decision to lift the decree did not require full Cabinet approval.
Surapong, who has been voicing opposition against the plan, insists that the government needs to evaluate the state of affairs carefully before lifting the state of emergency.
Security sources, meanwhile, said government leaders were divided over whether the state of emergency should be lifted after the business sector stepped up pressure, citing that the harsh law has gravely damaged the economy.
The emergency decree, imposed on Bangkok and neighbouring provinces on January 22 for 60 days, expires on March 22. It can be extended by up to three months each time.
The CMPO held a meeting to discuss the matter right after the Civil Court issued a ruling on February 19, in which it did not order the lifting of the emergency decree but slapped nine restrictions on using it against the protesters.
Some government leaders reckon that these nine prohibitions render the decree useless, as it cannot be used to disperse anti-government protesters. The government is also facing rising pressure from the business sector, which has been hit hard by the fact that many foreign companies do not wish to trade with countries under the state of emergency and have advised their citizens against visiting Thailand, which is also hurting the tourism sector.
CMPO director and caretaker Labour Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung, as well as police and military personnel in CMPO, have been throwing their weight behind lifting the state of emergency. Their reasoning is that if the harsh law is removed, then the court’s nine bans will automatically be cancelled, so the government can impose the emergency decree again in full force.
Pheu Thai Party strategists are also suggesting that Yingluck, who also holds the post of Defence Minister, to get the Army to remove the military bunkers put up around the capital. If the law is lifted, then the soldiers must return to their barracks.
However, Surapong will not hear of the decree being lifted, because he says it will only open the door to daily violence.
Now, if the government decides to lift the emergency decree and opts for the Internal Security Act, then it will be entirely up to Yingluck to decide if she wants military presence in the capital.