Bangkok: Thailand lifted a state of
emergency in three provinces on Tuesday but maintained the strict
laws across about one-fifth of the country, two months after
the end of deadly anti-government protests.
The strict laws, which ban public gatherings of
more than five people and give security forces the right to
detain suspects for 30 days without charge, will remain in
place in 16 other provinces.
Earlier this month Thailand extended the emergency
powers across about one quarter of the country by three
months, prompting concern among rights groups and key allies
including the United States.
The cabinet decided today to revoke the state of
emergency in Lampang, Roi Et and Sakon Nakhon provinces.
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva hinted that
he might gradually lift the decree in the 16 other provinces
if the situation allows.
But he added: "Currently there are still all kinds
of movements such as secret meetings that have made us more
Two months of mass rallies in Bangkok by the Red
Shirts, who were seeking immediate elections, sparked
outbreaks of violence that left 90 people dead and nearly
1,900 injured, ending in a bloody army crackdown in May.
Critics say the government may be fanning the
crisis as it clamps down and censors the protest movement --
which broadly supports fugitive former premier Thaksin
Shinawatra -- rather than addressing its grievances.
A visiting senior US envoy last week called for the
state of emergency to be lifted "as soon as possible".
William Burns, the State Department`s number three,
said that to retain these powers indefinitely was "not healthy
for a democratic system".
The government has rejected calls from the
opposition for the decree to be lifted in Bangkok for a
parliamentary by-election in the capital on July 25 in which a
Red Shirt leader detained on terrorism charges is running.
The main opposition Puea Thai dismissed the move to
end emergency rule in three provinces as insufficient, saying
the authorities were simply trying to curry favour with