Asia-Pacific

Thai government ends overnight curfew in Bangkok

A couple look up at the ruins of Bangkok's Central World Plaza shopping mall on 22 May 2010
Image caption Thai authorities say the situation in Bangkok has returned to normal

Thai authorities have lifted a curfew in Bangkok and 23 provinces, 10 days after city-wide arson attacks that followed an army operation to clear anti-government protesters.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said the situation was under control and there was no need to extend the curfew.

But he said that a state of emergency imposed during the months-long protest would remain.

More than 80 people died during the stand-off, which began on 14 March.

"Red-shirt" protesters demanding the government's resignation occupied key parts of Bangkok, forcing hotels and shops to close.

Attempts to negotiate a political solution failed and on 19 May, following six days of violent clashes, troops moved into the barricaded camp to end the protest.

As troops moved in a hard-line group of protesters rioted, setting shops, banks and other buildings on fire. One of Bangkok's largest shopping centres, Central World Plaza, was among the buildings destroyed.

An overnight curfew has been in place since then in the Thai capital and 23 provinces home to many who sympathise with the protesters.

But Mr Abhisit said that it would be cancelled. "We will not have to extend it. The situation is under control now," he told journalists.

The emergency laws that will remain in place give the army powers to ban public gatherings and suspend some civil liberties.

No polls

Mr Abhisit also said that holding elections before the end of the year would be "difficult".

He had offered the protesters a reconciliation plan culminating in polls on 14 November but withdrew the offer when negotiations failed.

"It's going to take a while longer to establish the right kind of environment, but elections will be before the end of my term," he said.

"If we succeed in inviting and embracing all the stakeholders, including red-shirts, the opposition, to our reconciliation programme and over the next few months we see government and parliament function smoothly, that would be the right kind of environment."

The red-shirt protesters say Mr Abhisit's government came to power illegally.

Many of them support ousted leader Thaksin Shinawatra - who the government accuses of fomenting and financing the unrest from overseas.

Mr Abhisit blamed Mr Thaksin, who was removed by the military in a 2006 coup, for the red-shirts' decision not to accept his reconciliation plan.

"We have good reason to believe that they weren't allowed to do so by the former prime minister," Mr Abhisit said.

On Tuesday a Thai court approved an arrest warrant for Mr Thaksin on terrorism charges - allegations the telecommunications billionaire called politically motivated.