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Thailand court issues arrest warrants for protest leaders

[JURIST] A Thai court on Friday issued arrest warrants for at least 17 high-profile protesters in an attempt to put down violent protests. Among the accused are top leaders [TNA report] of the the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, also known as red shirts [BBC backgrounder]. The warrants are in addition to warrants issued Thursday for seven high-level protesters accused of being among a large group of protesters [Bangkok Post report] that entered the Parliament building during protests Wednesday. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva [official website, in Thai; BBC profile] said he hopes that the arrest of the high-profile leaders will cause other protesters to disperse [BBC report].

On Wednesday, Vejjajiva declared a state of emergency [JURIST report], giving the government increased ability to detain individuals and censor the media. The declaration came just days after a Thai court dismissed [JURIST report] the government's application for an injunction against protesters gathered in Bangkok's business district. The injunction would have ordered protest organizers to lead the group out of the area and would have banned rallies in 11 other areas. The court denied the request stating that the Internal Security Act [text, PDF], approved by the Thai Cabinet [JURIST report] in March, already gave the government eviction powers. The red shirts are supporters of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who was removed from power [JURIST report] in 2006 following a coup. The group is demanding that Abhisit dissolve parliament and call new elections. Last April, Abhisit declared a state of emergency [JURIST report] in Bangkok and several provinces following a similar outbreak of protests calling for his resignation.

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