BANGKOK — Thailand must immediately lift emergency rule imposed during the recent mass opposition protests and hold an election as soon as possible for national reconciliation, a leading think-tank said Monday.
The emergency decree was invoked across about a third of the country during the "Red Shirt" rallies in Bangkok that sparked clashes leaving 90 people dead, ending with an army crackdown on May 19 and a subsequent rampage by protesters.
The International Crisis Group (ICG) said the emergency law, which has handed sweeping powers to the police and military, had empowered authorities to stifle the anti-government movement and should be lifted at once.
"While the Red Shirts have no opportunity for open and peaceful expression because of draconian laws, their legitimate frustrations are being forced underground and possibly towards illegal and violent actions," ICG said.
A new report from the think-tank, "Bridging Thailand's Deep Divide", said Thailand should lift the law "or risk further damaging its democracy, hindering much needed reconciliation, and sowing the seeds of future deadly conflict".
The state of emergency is due to expire on July 7 but Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said last week it would be extended in the capital and possibly elsewhere, although "for how long depends on the situation".
He also said Friday he had no plans to hold elections this year because more time was needed for reconciliation following the deadly political unrest.
Although Abhisit does not have to go to the polls until the end of next year, ICG's Asia programme director Robert Templer said a vote "should be held as soon as possible" to begin a process of broad political reforms.
"Only a new government, with the legitimacy of a fresh mandate, if it is accepted by all sides, can move forward with such a complex reform agenda," he said.
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