Thailand government approves use of strict security law ahead of protests

[JURIST] The Thai Cabinet [official website, in Thai] on Tuesday approved the invocation of the Internal Security Act (ISA) to allow for increased security measures in anticipation of large anti-government protests. The law [BBC report] will provide more power to security forces and allow for the movement of protesters to be restricted through the imposition of curfews, checkpoints, and restrictions on the size of gatherings, in the event demonstrations turn violent. The law will be in effect [AP report] in the capital of Bangkok and the surrounding provinces from March 11 to March 23. The protests that sparked the effort to increase security are being planned by the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), or the red shirts [BBC backgrounder], supporters of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who was removed from power in 2006 following a coup. The group has called for a peaceful march to begin throughout the nation on Friday and culminate in Bangkok on Sunday.

Last month, the Thai Constitutional Court seized [JURIST report] 46.4 billion baht (USD $1.4 billion) in assets from Thaksin for abuses of power while in office. Thaksin has been convicted of corruption in Thailand, but Cambodia has refused [JURIST reports] to extradite him. Last April, current Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva [BBC profile] instituted a state of emergency [JURIST report] in Bangkok and several provinces following an outbreak of protests lead by the UDD calling for his resignation. He also canceled [press release] the summit of the Association of South-East Asian Nations [official website] leaders, which was being held in the country. Abhisit called for an inquiry into the violent clashes sparked by the UDD protests, in which two died and more than 100 were injured.

 

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