State of emergency begins in Thailand

State of emergency begins in Thailand

Gunmen shot and wounded a top leader of a major pro-government movement in northern Thailand today, and demonstrators pushing to overthrow the prime minister defied the start of a state of emergency imposed in the capital to cope with the nation's increasingly bloody political crisis.

Kwanchai Praipana was shot twice and hospitalized after unidentified gunmen in a pick-up truck sprayed bursts of gunfire at his home in Udon Thani, according to another leader of the group, Jutaporn Promphan.

The government announced the state of emergency yesterday in the wake of a string of attacks that have mostly been aimed at demonstrators protesting peacefully in Bangkok.

Grenade assaults 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 more than 550 hurt.

The emergency decree allows authorities to ban public gatherings, impose curfews and censor local news reports for 60 days.

But the government said it would not use those powers to crack down on demonstrators who have seized several patches of the capital, and life in the city continued as normal with tourist sites unaffected and no major deployment of extra security forces.

The powerful army commander, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, said "we will have to see" whether the decree helps ease the violence.

The protesters have refused to negotiate with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, but Prayuth urged both sides to talk, saying, "we must stop this conflict to let the country move forward."

"I'm in favour of discussion. No one takes all or loses all. No one wins all or loses all, so we have to find a way," he said. Because "whenever the conflict has gone to the point that it is not fixable, the soldiers have to fix it."

Thailand's military has staged 11 coups since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932. Prayuth has repeatedly said he does not want the army to intervene, but has pointedly refused to rule out a coup.

The protesters have blocked major streets and marched on government offices in a bid to shut down the capital and force 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. 

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