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Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Thailand protests force Government to declare sixty day Emergency period for Bangkok ! Note the military is keeping a close watch on violence by the Government and a military coup has not been ruled out !
Thailand Government Declares State of Emergency for Bangkok
Measure Takes Effect Wednesday and Will Continue for 60 Days
Thai antigovernment protesters waved national flags as they marched through downtown Bangkok on Tuesday. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
BANGKOK—The Thai government declared a state of emergency for 60 days in Bangkok and nearby provinces to deal with the continuing antigovernment protesters who have blockaded parts of Bangkok in a bid to force Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to step down.
The state of emergency will be imposed in all areas in Bangkok, Nonthaburi and some districts in other provinces nearby, effective Wednesday, deputy prime minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said at a news conference.
Mr. Surapong said the government's goal is to enforce laws regarding the protests and supporters of the movement, which has disrupted areas of central Bangkok for weeks, as well as to curb "the spread of distorted information that incites chaos and division, which affects the country's security."
Thai authorities said they would disclose details of the security measures on Wednesday. Generally, emergency decrees give security authorities powers to detain suspects without charge, censor media, impose curfews and ban political gatherings of more than five people.
Mr. Surapong cited a spate of violence by provocateurs that resulted in injuries and loss of lives that has prompted the government to impose the laws. Since the protests broke in early November, nine people have been killed and scores injured in clashes between rival protesters, security forces and attacks.
In a pair of explosives attacks against crowds since last week, one person was killed and about 60 were injured.
The recent escalation of violence has raised fears of more unrest as the Southeast Asian country is headed to elections Feb. 2. The protesters are determined to scuttle the elections, which Ms. Yingluck's Pheu Thai Party is expected to win.
Thai government declares state of emergency as protests drag on
1 OF 8. Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra gestures while speaking to reporters following following the declaration of a state of emergency in Bangkok January 21, 2014. The Thai government on Tuesday declared a 60-day state of emergency to start on Wednesday, saying it wanted to prevent any escalation in more than two months of protests aimed at forcing Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from power.
(Reuters) - The Thai government on Tuesday declared a 60-day state of emergency to start on Wednesday, saying it wanted to prevent any escalation in more than two months of protests aimed at forcing Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from power.
The decree, which applies to Bangkok and surrounding provinces, gives security agencies the power to impose curfews, detain suspects without charge, censor media, ban political gatherings of more than five people and declare parts of the capital off-limits.
"We need it because the protesters have closed government buildings, banks and escalated the situation, which has caused injuries and deaths. The government sees the need to announce the emergency decree to keep the situation under control," Labour Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung told a nationally televised news conference.
The government had no plans to try to disperse protesters during the night, he added, without elaborating.
He was speaking after a cabinet meeting which had to be held at air force headquarters in the north of Bangkok because the protesters have for weeks prevented Yingluck using her offices in Government House.
The protests, now in their third month, have closed off parts of the capital in the latest instalment of an eight-year political conflict that has seen sporadic outbreaks of violence.
The protests pit the middle class and royalist establishment against the mainly poorer supporters of Yingluck and her brother, ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was toppled by the military in 2006.
The protesters want to suspend what they say is a democracy commandeered by the self-exiled billionaire Thaksin, whom they accuse of nepotism and corruption, and eradicate the political influence of his family by altering electoral arrangements.
In a potentially worrying development for Yingluck, whose power base depends heavily on rural support, some farmers have threatened to join the protesters if they do not get paid for their rice vote.
A scheme under which farmers are guaranteed an above-market price for their rice has been a centrepiece of the government's programme but, as financing strains mount, some are complaining they have been waiting three or four months to be paid.
The protests are also beginning to undermine Southeast Asia's second biggest economy.
On Monday, the Thai subsidiary of auto giant Toyota Motor Corp, and one of Thailand's biggest foreigner investors, said it might reconsider a $600 million (£365 million) spending plan and even cut production if the unrest drags on.
And some economists expect the central bank will be forced to further cut interest rates when it meets on Wednesday to give a lift to the economy.
Bloodshed in Bangkok: Anti-Government Protests Turn Deadly
Daily violence and vitriolic rhetoric are dangerously exacerbating Thailand's political divide
Thailand’s antigovernment protests have become marred with bloodshed with one killed and 67 wounded over the past three days.
At Bangkok’s Victory Monument, one of several demonstration sites occupied by opponents of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra since Jan. 13, two explosions injured 28 people on Sunday. One person had already died from wounds sustained when a grenade was hurled at protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban on Friday.
“We have made it clear that we will fight peacefully,” Suthep, a former lawmaker for the opposition Democracy Party, told gathered supporters late Sunday. “But they do [violence] to us every day.” The 64-year-old urged his supporters to start besieging provincial government offices around the country from Monday.
In total, nine people have been killed and more than 500 injured since protests began in November.
Protesters accused Yingluck, Thailand’s first female Prime Minister, of being a puppet of her notorious brother, former Premier Thaksin Shinawatra, a divisive figure who was ousted in a military putsch in 2006 and remains in exile in Dubai following a corruption conviction.
Thaksin Shinawatra's secret "black shirt" force of provocateurs, mostly made up of navy SEALS and marines, is back on the streets again for the first time since May 2010 and has infiltrated Suthep's rabble. If protests escalate they will seek to incite deadly violence ahead of King Bhumibol's birthday to discredit Suthep and his movement for good.
Marshall claims that a "very reliable source" had passed this information onto him, and assured fellow regime supporters that "if protesters kill civilians or police, that does not discredit the government." Robert Amsterdam would immediately react to General Prayuth's warning by threatening the General with charges under "international law."
It is unclear which "international laws" prevent a nation's military from intervening in violence carried out by an illegitimate regime openly run by a convicted criminal hiding abroad. Amsterdam's threats appear to be yet another case of the West's "selective enforcement" of standards it itself routinely discard when convenient (i.e. Iraq, Libya, Syria, etc.).
Image: Rice farmers, considered stalwart supporters of the Thaksin Shinawatra's regime, have now begun protesting after being promised unsustainable rice subsidies from a fund that is now bankrupt and hasn't paid farmers for up to 5 months. Rice farmers plan to continue protesting until they are paid, or threaten to join protests to oust the regime from power.
Compounding the regime's increasingly tenuous grip on power, rice farmers from 5 northern provinces gathered to block roads after failing to receive payments from the regime's vote-buying rice subsidy for 5 months now. Thai PBS would report in their article, "Farmers block Highway 117," that:
Several hundreds of farmers from five northern and central provinces blocked Highway 117 from Phitsanulok to Nakhon Sawan causing traffic jams on the Asian highway. They said if the government could not pay them by January 15, they would step up protest to oust the government instead.
All vehicles on both inbound and outbound traffic from Bangkok to the north and vice versa were advised to avoid the blockade and use the rural road instead.
Rural rice farmers are claimed to be the regime's primary supporters, and it was with lofty campaign promises like unsustainable over-market rice pledges and "free computers" that led many to vote in the current regime despite the disqualifying overt criminality of the current ruling party. Rice farmers now face a double dilemma - they haven't receive government subsidies and can't even sell their rice at previous prices as the rice scam has seriously damaged Thailand's agricultural industry. Traditional importers of Thai rice have moved on to other alternatives citing deteriorating quality due to lengthy periods Thai rice is now left unsold, stockpiled (and fumigated) in warehouses. Anti-regime sentiment is reaching a crescendo, and it is feared that it will resort to desperate, violent measures to maintain its grip on power. Thaksin Shinwatra while in office and at the height of his popularity set out to slaughter some 3,000 innocent people in a political point-scoring "War on Drugs." Analysts fear what an unpopular and desperate Thaksin Shinawatra may try in order to perpetuate his power.
The perceived risk of Thailand defaulting on its debt is at its highest since August last year, as anti-government protests prompt money managers to sell off Thai stocks and bonds.
The cost of protecting Thailand's debt soared after investors including Wells Fargo Inc pulled more than US$4 billion from Thai stocks and bonds since Oct 31, as rallies clogged up Bangkok roads and clashes left nine dead with 550 injured. Pacific Investment Management Co, Goldman Sachs Group Inc and Kokusai Asset Management Co reduced debt holdings before protests first erupted in late October, regulatory filings show.
"We sold the entire Thai position in our international bond fund through the end of last year," Lauren Van Biljon, an analyst in London at Wells Fargo's First International Advisors LLC unit, said in a Jan 17 telephone interview. "There seems to be a very wide gulf between the different political sides."
An anti-government protester holds a bag with donated money collected during the arrival of protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban to speak to his supporters in Bangkok on Jan 14, 2014. (Reuters Photo)
A resolution of the crisis has eluded caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra since she dissolved parliament in December and called a snap poll for Feb 2. Demonstrators want to remove her and end the influence of her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by the army in 2006. Blasts rocked a protest site in Bangkok on Sunday. The baht has slumped on bets the central bank will cut borrowing costs this week as the turmoil crimps growth, and amid speculation about a coup.
"We have remained underweight on the baht since late last year as the prolonged political unrest hurt the currency outlook," Tatsuya Higuchi, a money manager at Kokusai Asset in Tokyo, said in a Jan 16 telephone interview. "There's no fiscal support as the politics are in chaos. The only support they can provide under such a situation is monetary easing."
Kokusai, Japan’s biggest mutual fund manager with $36 billion of assets, cut its Thai bond holdings last year and will keep its existing stake for now, he said.
Credit-default swaps insuring Thai debt against non-payment for five years rose to 153 on Jan 14 in New York, the highest level since Aug 28, according to CMA prices. The spread has widened 44 basis points since anti-government protest broke out on Oct 31, compared with increases of 19 basis points for Indonesia and 17 basis points for the Philippines.
The cost of protecting Thailand's debt may reach 200, the highest since November 2011, from 150 on Jan 17, according to Nordea Markets, a unit of northern Europe's biggest financial group, which had about 228 billion euros ($310 billion) of assets under management as of Sept 30.
"The upside risk to the CDS level is still pretty big, given the risk of military intervention," Amy Zhuang, a senior Asian markets analyst in Copenhagen at Nordea, said in a Jan 15 telephone interview. "The uncertainty is there, the turmoil is there. They are generally still calm but the risky and tricky parts haven’t fully played out at the moment."
Global funds have sold $2.8 billion more local stocks than they bought and a net $1.4 billion of bonds since Oct 31, data from the stock exchange and the Thai Bond Market Association show. The baht fell 5.2% in the period and touched 33.148 per dollar on Jan 6, the weakest since 2010, while the SET Index of domestic shares dropped 10%.
The Bank of Thailand will lower its benchmark one-day repurchase rate to 2% from 2.25% on Jan 22, according to 14 of 21 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. Seven predict no change. The central bank delivered a surprise 25-basis point cut at its last meeting on Nov 27.
The monetary authority has lowered its 2014 growth projection to about 4% from 4.8%, saying the unrest will hurt investment and business confidence. Thailand’s finance ministry on Jan 16 cut its forecast for the second time in a month, reducing it to 3.1% after cutting to 4% from 5.1% on Dec 26.
Yingluck’s administration has endured more than two months of street demonstrations aimed at erasing her family’s political influence. Her brother’s allies won the past five elections.
Sunday's blasts occurred at Victory Monument, one of seven key districts that have been blockaded by demonstrators in the capital since Jan 13, according to the Bangkok Emergency Medical Center. Violence over the past three days has killed one and wounded 67, the centre said on its website.
The protesters led by former Democrat Party MP Suthep Thaugsuban want Yingluck to step down and allow an unelected council to reform the electoral system before holding a fresh vote. The main opposition Democrat Party will boycott the Feb 2 poll, its leader and former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said on Dec 21, 2013.
'Bad to Worse'
"Things are going from bad to worse," Nicholas Spiro, managing director of investment consultancy Spiro Sovereign Strategy in London, said in a Jan 15 e-mail interview. "The risk of another military coup is growing given the bleak prospects for a negotiated solution," he wrote, adding that "stability and democratic governance are being undermined at a particular inopportune time from a market standpoint."
Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, the national army chief, last month refused to rule out the possibility of a coup. The country has had nine coups and more than 20 prime ministers since 1946.
For now, the blockades in Bangkok have not done enough damage to the economy to alter its sovereign rating, Steffen Dyck, an analyst at Moody’s Investors Service, said at a Jan 17 media briefing in Singapore. There are "very low" chances of a change to its ranking in the next 18 months, he said.
Thailand is rated Baa1 by Moody's and BBB+ by Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings, their third-lowest investment grades.
"In terms of growth, I can't see it dropping below 3%," Dyck said. "Manufacturing is still going on. We have seen some weakening in foreign reserves as protests intensified, but the stock market is much higher compared to instances in 2006 or 2008."
Dollar-denominated debt sold by Thai companies handed investors a 1.2 p% loss since the crisis flared on Oct 31, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co's Asian Credit Index, making it the region's worst performer after Indonesia.
The average yield on the country's debt climbed 32 basis points, or 0.32 percentage point, in the period to 4.93% on Jan. 16. It reached 5.07% on Jan 9, the highest since Sept 18. The yield on Thai Oil Pcl's 4.875% note due Jan 2043 climbed to 6.31% from 5.98% on Oct 31.
The political stalemate is costing Southeast Asia's second-biggest economy as much as 1 billion baht ($30 million) a day as tourism suffers, the University of Thai Chamber of Commerce estimated as Singapore Airlines Ltd, Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd and PT Garuda Indonesia reduced flights to Bangkok.
"The biggest casualty of a further escalation in the crisis is Thailand's economy, which has already slowed dramatically," Spiro said. "Tourism and infrastructure investment are increasingly at risk, putting pressure on the central bank to trim rates again to help shore up growth."