Thai court warns govt not to use Emergency powers on protesters

Thai court warns govt not to use Emergency powers on protesters
Anti-government protesters gather as Thai soldiers stand guard at a Defence Ministry compound serving as a temporary office for Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in north Bangkok February 19, 2014. Photo: Reuters
Published: 4:03 AM, February 20, 2014
Updated: 6:25 AM, February 20, 2014
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BANGKOK — A Thai court yesterday endorsed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s declaration of a State of Emergency, a day after five people were killed in gun battles in Bangkok, but warned the government not to use it to disperse peaceful protesters.

The country’s police chief said the court ruling would not affect the security operation, but added that there were no plans to retake more protest sites after Tuesday’s “Peace for Bangkok Mission” saw the deadliest clashes since anti-government demonstrations began in November.

Ms Yingluck, seen by opponents as a proxy for her brother, ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, has been working from a Defence Ministry compound in north Bangkok since the protests forced her to vacate her Government House offices.

About 3,000 protesters surrounded the building yesterday, but there were no clashes with troops standing guard and Ms Yingluck and other ministers stayed away.

The Civil Court in Bangkok yesterday dismissed a case brought by protest leaders who wanted a 60-day State of Emergency announced last month declared illegal, but added that the government was “not allowed to use clauses in the State of Emergency to disperse the protests”.

The court also ordered the government not to use force against the protesters, who want to oust Ms Yingluck and eradicate Thaksin’s influence.

The Civil Court ruled that some orders issued by the Prime Minister and a special security command centre under the Emergency decree were illegal because they violate the protesters’ constitutional rights.

The prohibited orders include bans on gatherings of five or more people, on entering certain buildings, and on the use of certain roads by the demonstrators. The State of Emergency covers Bangkok and surrounding provinces.

The Civil Court noted that Thailand’s Constitutional Court had previously ruled that the protesters were rallying peacefully. It said the Prime Minister therefore “cannot use force or arms in cracking down” on them.

“When the facts show that there have been orders to bring a large number of police officers into Bangkok to crack down on the protesters, the court, therefore, is ruling to protect the protesters’ rights to rally peacefully and without arms,” the court added.

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