Thailand's government on Tuesday lifted a state of emergency in three provinces after violent anti-government protests earlier this year, but retained it for 15 other provinces and the capital Bangkok.
Deputy government spokesman Supachai Jaisamut said the Cabinet agreed that the northern province of Lampang, and Roi Et and Sakon Nakhon in the northeast, are "free of severe political movements" and that "the security officials have the authority and enough power to control the situation."
"Most people are currently involved in farming and do not take part in political gatherings," he said.
The three provinces are sympathetic to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in a 2006 coup. Thaksin's supporters and their allies, known as the Red Shirts, staged large-scale anti-government protests that ended violently in May when the army was sent in to disperse them. Nearly 90 people _ most of them protesters _ were killed and more than 1,400 injured during the two months of protests, which included grenade attacks carried out by Red Shirt sympathizers.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said the situation in the three provinces has returned to normalcy. He said that political movements remained active in other areas where the emergency decree is in effect, and that "it won't be helpful if (a state of emergency) is lifted and the unrest is reignited. It will create a problem for the overall picture."
The state of emergency had been declared in April after protesters who had already occupied two major intersections in Bangkok broke into the parliament building to press their demands for national elections. A state of emergency allows the government to impose curfews, prohibit public gatherings, censor and ban publications, detain suspects without charge, confiscate property and tap telephones, among other provisions.
The state of emergency was initially declared in Bangkok and later extended to cover almost one-third of the country's 76 provinces. It was extended last week, as it must be renewed every three months.
Human rights advocacy groups, including New York-based Human Rights Watch and Brussels-based International Crisis Group, have urged the emergency decree be lifted, expressing concern over provisions that allowed extended detention and claiming that its continuation would hinder reconciliation efforts.