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State of Emergency Declared in Thailand as Premier Faces Fraud Charges

BY Admin  September 2, 2008 at 12:40 PM EST

Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej; AP photo

Both actions followed a week of political tension in the country that erupted into fighting Monday night between his supporters and anti-government protesters that left one person dead, according to CNN.

Under the state of emergency, which gives the military the right to restore order, authorities can suspend certain civil liberties, ban public gatherings of five or more and ban the media from reporting news that “causes panic,” reported the Associated Press.

Samak did not say how long the emergency decree would stay in effect, though he said it would be over “moderately quickly.”

“I did it to solve the problems of the country,” he said at a news conference in Bangkok. “I had no other choice. The softest means available was an emergency decree to end the situation using the law.”

The trouble began a week ago when thousands of protesters, led by the right-wing People’s Alliance for Democracy, occupied the grounds of his office and refused to leave until he resigned.

The group accuses Samak of trying to help former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup, avoid prosecution on corruption charges. The same group organized massive protests against Thaksin that help prompt the bloodless coup.

The Election Commission, meanwhile, recommended Tuesday that Samak’s People’s Power Party be disbanded for election fraud during December elections. If the ruling is upheld by judicial authorities, Samak and other party leaders would be banned from politics for five years.

The commission’s ruling stems from charges the against the party’s deputy leader, Yongyuth Tiyapairat, who the Supreme Court found guilty of buying votes during the campaign phase of the elections, according to Bloomberg News.

A labor federation for state employees said Monday that 200,000 of its members will go on strike starting Wednesday in support of the protesters, the AP reported. The strike could disrupt train, bus and air service and cut off electricity and water supplies to some government buildings.