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Bangkok under emergency rule

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Thailand yesterday declared a 60-day state of emergency in Bangkok and surrounding areas to tackle mass street protests aimed at overthrowing the government.

The move follows weeks of rallies that have paralysed parts of the capital and sparked several bouts of deadly violence, including grenade attacks and shootings.

"The Cabinet decided to invoke the emergency decree to take care of the situation and to enforce the law," said Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul, noting that protesters had prevented officials from going to work.

The decree will come into force from today.

It was not immediately clear how the government would implement the decree, which enables authorities to ban public gatherings of more than five people and detain suspects for 30 days without charge, AFP reported.

Labour Minister Chalerm Yubamrung, who will oversee its implementation, said Thailand would abide by international standards.

He said: "We will not use force. We have no policy to disperse them (the protesters) and we haven't announced a curfew yet."

National Security Council chief Paradorn Pattanatabut said there were already enough police and soldiers deployed to deal with the demonstrations.

He said the decree could be used to ban protest marches.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has called an election for Feb 2 but the main opposition party is boycotting the vote. The protesters are trying to disrupt the polls and have prevented candidates from registering in some southern constituencies.

The demonstrators have staged a self-styled "shutdown" of Bangkok since Jan 13, erecting roadblocks and rally stages at several main intersections, although their number has steadily fallen since the middle of last week.

Decree may be used to ban protest marches