Mixed response to emergency decree

The caretaker government's decision to invoke emergency law for a 60-day period to clamp down on anti-government protests has drawn a range of responses from those who believe officials had no choice but to invoke the measure to others who believe the move will be ineffective at curbing ongoing street rallies.

Ms Gan, an investment banker and member of the pro-election cadle-light protest group that meets at Benjasiri Park, told the Bangkok Post that she was sympathetic to the government's "inevitable" invocation of emergency law.

She argued that the law is necessary since the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) had caused damage to many government agencies and prevented civil servants from performing their duties.

"It might not be a good PR for the government but they seem to be desperate as foreign investors are fleeing Thailand. The government needs to enforce strict law," said Ms Gan, who asked to withhold her last name for security reasons.

She was referring to how ongoing anti-government protests are damaging business sentiments, citing the fact that that car giant Toyota is among companies considering reducing investment and cutting production if the political turmoil is further prolonged.

The pro-election candle-light protest group to which Ms Gan belongs is still debating whether to go ahead with their evening meeting scheduled to take place at the Sukhumvit park on Thursday. They fear they could be affected by the curb on political activity in groups exceeding five people.

But Zakee Pitukkumpon, a lecturer at Prince of Songkla University's Institute for Peace, said invoking the decree gives no real power to the government as long as enforcement agencies such as the military do not fully cooperate.

"Legally, the emergency decree might empower the government with help from the police, but people do not feel the government can really do anything. Invoking the law will only worsen the image of the country, especially the tourism industry,” said Mr Zakee.

Hara Shintaro, Malay language lecturer at the Prince of Songkla University, said he disagreed with the use of special security laws throughout the whole of Thailand, but said he recognised that government was desperate to increase controls at its disposal from the Internal Security Act to the more serious emergency decree.

Given that People's Democratic Reform Committee protesters had brought lawlessness to the capital and the police could do nothing to control the situation, the government is likely poised to ask the army to step in, Mr Shintaro said, adding that there is still a possibilty martial law could be invoked if the protest death toll rises. 

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