When the government announced it was invoking a state of emergency last week, it made two swift promises. One was that there would be no restriction on peaceful protests. The second was a pledge to leave the media alone to do its job. The Foreign Ministry called in the diplomatic corps to reassure ambassadors of these promises. Within 48 hours, both of these solemn commitments were shattered.
The vow not to interfere with peaceful protests and demonstrations was made along with the actual invoking of the state of emergency. The full law actually allows police or other designated forces _ including the military _ to disperse crowds. But caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul assured the nation this part of the emergency law would not be used. "No force would be used to break up the protest," he said, specifying the Bangkok shutdown campaign under way by the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).
But less than two days later, the Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order (CMPO) under caretaker Labour Minister Chalerm Yubamrung countermanded that stipulation. He published an order in the Royal Gazette making gatherings of more than five people illegal. He clarified it applied only to groups which seem to be trying to incite unrest.
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