|Bangkok protesters defy emergency
Protesters vying to overthrow Thailand's government stayed on the streets despite the start of a state of emergency in Bangkok.
The emergency decree announced late Tuesday allows authorities to ban public gatherings, impose curfews and censor local news reports for the next 60 days.
But the government said it would not crack down on demonstrators who have seized several patches of Bangkok, and life in the city continued as normal with tourist sites unaffected and no major deployment of extra security forces.
The state of emergency follows increasing attacks at protest sites for which the government and the protesters blame each other. Grenade attacks on Friday and Sunday killed one man and wounded more than 60 people alone, bringing the casualty toll since November to at least nine dead and 554 hurt.
The unrest has cast doubt over whether February 2 elections, which Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra called to quell the crisis, will be held.
Today, the Election Commission is expected to request the Constitutional Court to issue a ruling on how and whether the ballot can be delayed.
Charupong Ruangsuwan, caretaker Interior Minister, told The Associated Press the vote should go ahead and the Election Commission should not use the state of emergency as an excuse to postpone the poll.
“They can use any excuses all they want, but their duty is to hold the election,'' he said. “They may accuse the government of causing problems, but the government doesn't have any problems.''
The emergency decree appeared to embolden the demonstrators. Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban vowed late Tuesday to continue demonstrating and questioned whether the declaration was justified, saying the protesters had been peaceful.
“Come and get us!'' he cried.
“Whatever they warn us not to do, we will do,'' he declared. ``We will march on the routes they ban. ... If they order us not to rally, we will be here indefinitely.''
The protesters have been demanding Yingluck's resignation to make way for an appointed government to implement reforms to fight corruption, which they say must be implemented before any vote. The opposition Democrat Party, closely aligned with the protesters, is boycotting the polls. –AP