The protests aimed at bringing down Prime Minister Yingluck
Shinawatra have been going on for four months and are taking a toll
on the economy, with consumer confidence at a 12-year low.
Twenty-three people have been killed, most of them in shootings and
grenade blasts, since late November.
The political uncertainty is unnerving consumers and the violence is
scaring tourists away from Bangkok. Lower spending is hitting
automakers, property firms and hotels in Southeast Asia's
Surapong Techruvichit, president of the Thai Hotels Association,
said the occupancy rate had plunged to 20 to 25 percent in Bangkok
in January-February from 70 to 80 percent in the same months last
The end of the 60-day emergency, imposed in Bangkok on January 22 in
a bid to contain the unrest, would be a good start for getting
business back on its feet, he said.
"If it's lifted, I think we can get back the tourists within two
weeks to a month," he told Reuters. "It won't be good just for the
hotel industry but for all business."
But the head of the National Security Council said no decision had
been reached and the situation would be assessed next week.
"We'll let our military and police intelligence units consider
whether the emergency decree should continue or not," Paradorn
Pattanathabutr told reporters.
The protests are the latest bout of nearly a decade of political
conflict that has set the Bangkok-based royalist establishment
against the political machine of Yingluck's brother, former premier
Former telecoms tycoon Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 coup and has
been in self-imposed exile since 2008 to avoid a two-year jail term
for a graft conviction he says was politically motivated. He is
widely seen as the power behind Yingluck's government.
The main opposition party boycotted a February 2 election and
protesters disrupted polls Yingluck's ruling party looked set to
win. The protesters have lost faith in elections, which Thaksin's
parties keep winning, and want to change the political system to end
The protesters have scaled back action over the past week, lifting
the occupation of several main intersections, but several thousand
are camping out in Bangkok's Lumpini Park, where shooting erupted in
the early hours.
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Police said a taxi driver and a female passer-by were wounded by
shots coming from the park.
The military, which has a long record
of intervention in politics, has declined to get involved this time
and has instead urged the rival sides to talk.
However, soldiers are visible in Bangkok, mainly at bunker-like
posts protected with sandbags and camouflage netting.
Yingluck expressed her fear that the intimidating-looking posts
could further alarm tourists and as a result some have been
decorated with pink flowers in pots.
"We've allowed this to soften up the atmosphere," Major- General
Wara Boonyasit told Reuters.
Yingluck heads a caretaker government until polling begun on
February 2 can be completed and parliament can convene, although
both the prime minister and the election itself face various legal
One of the potentially most serious ones Yingluck faces is
dereliction of duty brought against her by the National
Anti-Corruption Commission over a rice-subsidy scheme that has
failed, leaving hundreds of thousands of farmers unpaid and causing
huge losses to the budget.
She has been given time to defend herself. The commission then has
to decide whether there is a case to pursue and, if it goes ahead,
she may be forced out of office.
Yingluck repeated on Friday that she has no intention of stepping
down and was determined to defend democracy.
(Additional reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat and Aukkarapon
Niyomyat; writing by Robert Birsel; editing by Alan Raybould)
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