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Thailand government extends state of emergency

The Thai government on Tuesday extended the state of emergency in Bangkok and 18 provinces for another three months based on claims of continuing unrest related to the country's latest round of political violence [JURIST news archive]. Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva [official website, in Thai] said the decision was based on intelligence reports [MCOT report] regarding certain areas of the country and also noted that the state of emergency would be allowed to expire in five provinces that are considered to be stable. The state of emergency was declared in April [JURIST report] after protesters, known as red shirts [BBC backgrounder], broke into Parliament, causing government officials to evacuate. Rights groups have expressed concern about the treatment of anti-government protesters arrested during the protests and urged the government to end the state of emergency [JURIST reports]. The International Crisis Group (ICG) [advocacy website] on Monday released a report detailing reconciliation efforts in Thailand [report, PDF] following the protests. In the report, they called for an immediate end to the state of emergency, which they say has "empowed" the government to stifle political discourse [press release] within the country. Thailand's Human Rights Commissioner Nirand Pithakwachara has expressed concern over the extension, calling on the government to clarify the reason for extending the state of emergency and noting that the extension was not consistent with the steps the government has been taking toward reconciliation. Under the state of emergency, civil liberties will continue to be restricted through the institution of curfews and the banning of public gatherings. Additionally, the police have broader powers to arrest and detain, the government may censor media reports and detainees can be held for 30 days without access to legal counsel. Abhisit first extended the state of emergency [JURIST report] last month, but he had indicated at that time that the state of emergency would be allowed to expire on July 7.

The protests came to an end [JURIST report] in May when red shirt leaders surrendered to police, which led to rioting, arson and the imposition of a curfew to protect citizens of Bangkok and its surrounding areas. The red shirts are supporters of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who was removed from power in 2006 [JURIST report]. The group was demanding that Abhisit dissolve parliament and call new elections. Last month, a Thai court charged 11 protest leaders [JURIST report] with terrorism in connection with the political demonstrations. In May, 27 red shirt protesters were sentenced to six months in prison [JURIST report] for violating the emergency decree prohibiting political gatherings of more than five people. Under the strict security law [JURIST report] adopted in March in anticipation of the protests, the detained red shirts faced a sentence of up to a year in prison, but their sentences were reduced because they confessed to the charges. Abhisit has promised to conduct an independent investigation [JURIST report] into the clashes between security forces and red shirt protesters, which resulted in more than 80 deaths.

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