Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra declared a 60-day state of
emergency in Bangkok and surrounding areas from Wednesday, hoping to
prevent an escalation in the protests now in their third month.
The Election Commission says the country is too volatile to hold a
general election now and that technicalities mean it is anyway bound
to result in a parliament with too few lawmakers to form a quorum.
The government says the decree to hold the election on that date has
been signed by the king and cannot be changed.
"The Constitutional Court has accepted this case and we will look at
the legal issues involved. If there is enough evidence, we may hand
down a decision tomorrow," said court spokesman Pimol
The protests are the latest eruption in a political conflict that
has gripped the country for eight years. The emergency decree failed
to clear the demonstrators, though the capital has been relatively
calm this week.
Broadly, the conflict pits the Bangkok middle class and royalist
establishment against the mainly poorer supporters of Yingluck and
her brother, ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was toppled by the
military in 2006.
Nine people have been killed in outbursts of violence, including two
grenade attacks in Bangkok last weekend.
A leading pro-government activist was shot and wounded on Wednesday
in Thailand's northeast, a stronghold of the Shinawatra family, in
what police said may have been a political attack, adding to fears
the violence could spread.
A ruling in favor of the Election Commission would deepen Thailand's
political quagmire, already weighing on investor enthusiasm for
Southeast Asia's second-biggest economy.
The main opposition Democrat Party says it will boycott the vote.
Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, a former Democrat minister, wants
democracy suspended so that a "people's council" can push through
electoral and political changes.
Thais living overseas have already voted and some advance voting
takes place around the country on Sunday. The protesters have said
they would try to disrupt the election.
FEARS OF ELECTION VIOLENCE
On Wednesday, an unidentified gunman opened fire on Kwanchai
Praipana, a leader of Thailand's pro-government "red shirt" movement
and a popular radio DJ.
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The attack in Udon Thani, about 450 km (280 miles) northeast of
Bangkok, was the most significant violence outside the capital and
illustrates the risk that the turbulence could spread to other parts
Just a day before, Kwanchai had warned of a nationwide fight if the
military launched a coup, as widely feared.
So far the military, which has been involved in 18 actual or
attempted coups in the past 81 years, has kept out of the fray.
Police are charged with enforcing the state of emergency and are
under orders from Yingluck to show restraint.
"We announced a state of emergency to help police do their work,"
Yingluck told reporters on Thursday.
"But given what happened in 2010 I don't want police to use force
outside of the legal framework," she added, referring to a military
crackdown that year on pro-Thaksin protesters during which scores
Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said this week his troops might have to
play a bigger role if serious violence breaks out. "If such violence
erupted and no one is able to solve it, the troops would have to
step in and tackle it. We would look after our nation using the
right methods," he told reporters.
The emergency decree gives security agencies powers to detain
suspects, impose a curfew and limit gatherings. Some analysts said
it was in part designed to give Yingluck legal protection if police
Several governments have warned their nationals to avoid protest
areas in Bangkok, among the world's most visited cities. China
called on Thailand to "restore stability and order as soon as
possible" through talks.
(Additional reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Apornrath
Phoonphongphiphat; writing by Jonathan Thatcher and Alan Raybould;
editing by Nick Macfie)
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