[JURIST] Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva [official website, in Thai; BBC profile] on Wednesday declared a state of emergency in Bangkok and several nearby provinces in response to escalating political protests. The state of emergency was declared after protesters, known as red shirts [BBC backgrounder], broke into Parliament [AP report] earlier Wednesday, causing government officials to evacuate. Under the state of emergency [Bangkok Post report], which took effect immediately, public gatherings are banned, police are given broader powers to arrest and detain, curfews can be instituted, the government may censor media reports, and detainees can be held for 30 days without access to legal counsel. Abhisit stated his goals during the institution of the state of emergency include putting an end to escalating violence and restoring normalcy.
The declaration comes 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.