Saturday, April 25, 2009

Thailand: Emergency decree lifted

By Piyanart Srivalo
The Nation

PM vows peace, normalcy without special measures Abhisit insists he can keep order with existing laws and regulations

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday pledged he would ensure peace and normalcy by relying on relevant laws following the lifting of emergency rule yesterday.

"It is the duty of my government to keep the peace, and I pledge to allay public concerns about security by invoking relevant laws without taking any extra measures," he said.

Abhisit said the cancellation of the state of emergency was a clear signal to the world that normality had been restored.

The next step after emergency rule is for the legislative branch to take the lead in trying to dissipate fractious politics, he said, referring to the outcome of the two-day general debate on the Songkran mayhem.

The speakers and the House and Senate whips have been entrusted with two tasks, he said.

First is to form a special committee to convene a hearing that will compile a report on the mayhem and anti-riot operations. The second task is to draft a report on issues attributed to the turmoil.

The prime minister said the emergency measures and related mechanisms would end immediately, including detention of suspects under the emergency mandate.

The legal proceedings imposed under emergency rule will revert to normal procedures under the Criminal Procedure Code, Abhisit said.

He said his government did not intend hot pursuit of red-shirt leaders remaining at large, but any rally organisers involved in instigating disturbances and inciting violence would be prosecuted.

Abhisit is optimistic that the authorities can keep the peace if the red shirts revive their street protests. Deployment of soldiers will continue in certain sensitive areas, such as Government House, in order to assist police with peacekeeping.

He dismissed speculation that the drafting of new legislation to regulate street protests was meant to curtail basic rights that were enshrined in the Constitution.

The draft is meant to distinguish between peaceful demonstrations and those relying on non-peaceful tactics, in order to ensure protesters do not stray from their basic rights, he said.

Responding to a question on whether without emergency rule his government would last until year-end, Abhisit said he was determined to do his job and not focus on how long he would last in office.

Government Spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said the government-appointed panel to assess the outcome of anti-riot operations would replace the emergency operation command that ceased after the lifting of emergency rule yesterday.

Panitan said foreign countries had been very cooperative in trying to extradite fugitive Thaksin Shinawatra.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said that since emergency measures had been completed it was unnecessary to continue the state of emergency.

At Government House and selected areas, soldiers will continue to assist police as a precaution, but none will have the special powers granted under emergency rule, he said.

Suthep said the people were entitled to their basic right to peaceful assembly but they should not cross the line and turn unruly or incite violence. He was responding to reports that the red shirts might resume their rally.

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