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Thailand Under Emergency Decree as Anti-Government Protests Continue

Thailand's capital came under an official state of emergency Wednesday, but there was no immediate sign that security forces plan to break up anti-government protests entering their ninth consecutive day.

The 60-day state of emergency announced Tuesday by the government covers Bangkok and surrounding areas, where peaceful, festival-like protest camps have come under attack in recent days.

Although police stepped up inspections at checkpoints near the camps, there was not a heavy military presence. Authorities have also not imposed a curfew or banned political gatherings, as allowed under the emergency decree.

But some protesters, including Siriraj Puapanwattana, say the state of emergency is restricting their freedoms.

"The emergency decree should only be invoked when there is an emergency situation created by the protesters. The protesters did not create any violence at all, but they were those who were inflicted by violence."

At least 28 people were wounded Sunday in two explosions near a protest camp. On Friday, one person was killed in another bomb attack in the capital. Nine people have been killed since November, the country's worst political violence since 2010.

The protesters are calling for an unelected people's council to replace the current government, which they say is corrupt and engages in nepotism.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra refuses to step down. She insists on holding early elections on February 2, though the opposition has said it will boycott the polls.

For weeks, she also instructed security forces to use restraint when dealing with the protests. It is unclear how Tuesday's decree will change the stance of the police and military.

Thailand has experienced regular political turmoil in recent years. The conflict pits Bangkok's urban middle class and royalist elite against the mostly poor, rural supporters of Ms. Yingluck and her brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Mr. Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup, remains very influential in Thailand, even though he was convicted of corruption and lives in self-imposed exile.

Ms. Yingluck's Pheu Thai party is expected to easily win the February vote, thanks to the popularity of her brother and the social welfare programs he enacted.

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