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Thai Government Supports Release of Detained Red Shirt Protesters

Thai anti-government 'red shirt' protesters react as their leader addresses them at Bangkok's shopping district, 19 Dec 2010

Thailand's government has supported the release on bail of some of the opposition so-called Red Shirt protesters detained after anti-government demonstrations earlier this year. The recommendation came as the government announced an end to emergency rule in the capital, Bangkok.

The Thai government Tuesday agreed that more than 100 opposition Red Shirt protesters should be granted bail as they were charged with only minor offenses. Scores of protesters were detained after huge anti-government demonstrations in Bangkok turned violent earlier this year.

Thousands of Red Shirts occupied parts of Bangkok, demanding new elections. The government ordered the military to clear the protesters, resulting in violent clashes. Over the two months of protests 90 people died, most of them civilians.

Some protesters set fire to more than 30 buildings. Many of the protest leaders are charged with terrorism and could be sentenced to death. None have faced trial yet.

Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn says the final decision to grant bail is up to the courts.

"This is just assistance in terms of putting together the information needed for individuals to fight their own cases. For those leaders who may or may not want the help, it's up to them," he said. "But, the Thai citizens, all of them, will be entitled to the assistance provided by the government. And, that is the initiation of the Prime Minister Abhisit [Vejjajiva]. And, he wants to make sure that we are now moving forward for the reconciliation."

The government on Wednesday will end the emergency rule imposed in Bangkok and nearby provinces in April.

The emergency decree, which at one time covered a third of the country, allowed the government to deploy soldiers to oversee security, censor the media, prohibit public gatherings, and detain suspects without charge for up to 30 days.

An Internal Security Act will remain in place, which imposes lesser restrictions but still allows for curfews and declaring areas off limits. Suspects can be held a week without charge.

Panitan says Thailand's political and security situation is more or less normal.

"We believe that now we are moving forward," he said. "The prime minister, within next year, if the situation continues to be normal we can call for the general elections soon."

He says the government will monitor the security situation for any changes that might require a return to emergency rule.

On Sunday thousands of Red Shirts took to the streets of Bangkok, demanding their leaders be released from detention. The rally ended peacefully, but the Red Shirts have vowed to hold demonstrations twice a month until they are freed.