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Originally published February 18, 2014 at 11:50 AM | Page modified February 19, 2014 at 3:21 AM

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Thai court bans use of violence against protesters

A Thai court ordered the government on Wednesday not to use force against protesters who are seeking the prime minister's resignation, a day after violent clashes between riot police and demonstrators left five people dead.


Associated Press

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BANGKOK —

A Thai court ordered the government on Wednesday not to use force against protesters who are seeking the prime minister's resignation, a day after violent clashes between riot police and demonstrators left five people dead.

The Civil Court ruled that some orders issued by the prime minister and a special security command center under an emergency decree were illegal because they would violate the protesters' constitutional rights.

The prohibited orders included bans on gatherings of five or more people and the use of certain roads by the demonstrators. The court also prohibited the government from using force to crack down on the protesters.

The court, however, rejected a protester's request that it revoke the state of emergency, saying it was within the executive branch's power to enforce such a law.

The Cabinet declared a state of emergency in the Bangkok area on Jan. 21 after the protesters threatened to shut down the capital by blocking key intersections and occupying government offices.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's government has been attempting to avoid violence to keep the powerful military from stepping in. Thailand has been wracked by political unrest since 2006, when Yingluck's brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was ousted by a military coup after being accused of corruption and abuse of power.

Police have been ordered to exercise restraint and avoid using force, but deadly gunbattles erupted Tuesday after they moved into several locations around the city to remove protesters.

Five people were killed and nearly 70 injured, according to Erawan emergency medical services.

On Wednesday, thousands of protesters surrounded the prime minister's temporary office in Bangkok's northern outskirts to demand her resignation.

The demonstrators asked officials at the Defense Ministry complex to prevent Yingluck from using it as her backup office. She has been unable to enter her regular office compound in downtown Bangkok because it is blocked by protesters and some of its gates have been cemented shut.

The demonstrators also vowed to target businesses owned by Yingluck's wealthy family.

"Wherever she is, wherever she sleeps, we will go after her," protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban told the crowd. "(We) must intensify our fight and we will attack Shinawatra businesses and their funding sources."

The prime minister and Cabinet ministers stayed away from their temporary offices on Wednesday to prevent further tensions, the military said.

Protesters have camped out for a month at major intersections across the capital to press for Yingluck's resignation.

The demonstrators, who mostly draw their support from the urban middle and upper class and people in the south, want Yingluck to step down to make way for an appointed interim government to implement reforms they say are necessary to fight corruption and remove the Shinawatra family from politics.

In its decision, the Civil Court cited another court's earlier ruling that said the protests had been peaceful.

It was unclear whether the Civil Court's ruling would affect arrest warrants issued for protest leaders for violating the state of emergency.



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