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Thai PM cancels overseas trip amid mass protests

Last Updated: Thursday, April 8, 2010 - 12:43

Bangkok: Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva cancelled a scheduled visit to Vietnam on Thursday for a Southeast Asian leaders summit, a day after declaring a state of emergency to control mass protests.

The emergency declared in Bangkok and neighbouring provinces gives the Army sweeping powers to detain or remove people without a court order after protesters stormed Parliament on Wednesday, forcing some government officials to flee by helicopter.

By Thursday, authorities had blocked most websites associated with the red-shirted supporters of twice-elected and now fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, although its affiliated radio stations remained on air. The protesters are demanding a new election.

Abhisit dropped his plans to travel to Vietnam for a Southeast Asian leaders summit, Issara Sunthornwat, the prime minister`s deputy secretary-general, said, citing the state of emergency in Bangkok.

The decree allows authorities to suspend certain civil liberties, ban public gatherings of more than five people and stop media reporting news that "causes panic”.

"Red shirt" leader Weng Tojirakarn remained defiant.

"Today we will go on the offensive. We can`t sit still and do nothing -- this is our right," Weng said.

Thai stocks and the baht currency fell but traders said this reflected weakness in markets across Asia rather than fallout from protests. On Wednesday, as protesters stormed Parliament, Thai stocks and the baht rose.

Bureau Report

First Published: Thursday, April 8, 2010 - 12:43
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