Thailand’s embattled premier declared a state of emergency in Bangkok on Wednesday after protesters stormed parliament in a dramatic escalation of their bid to topple the government.
Lawmakers fled and several senior government figures were airlifted by military helicopter after red-shirted supporters of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra forced their way into the country’s parliamentary compound.
In an effort to contain the crisis, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva invoked emergency rule, which bans public gatherings of more than five people and gives broad powers to the police and military.
“The state of emergency aims to resolve the situation and bring a return to normal,” Abhisit told a nationally televised news conference.
He said the mass rallies were unconstitutional and had tarnished the country’s image, eroding investor confidence.
It is the fourth time since 2008 that emergency law has been declared in the capital because of political turmoil.
The government will disperse demonstrators in the city’s commercial heartland, arrest protest leaders and search their homes, Satit Wonghnongtaey, minister attached to the premier’s office, told reporters.
Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters have refused to leave Bangkok’s main shopping and hotel district, where they have been since Saturday, disrupting traffic and causing major stores to shut.