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Thailand extends state of emergency

AUTHORITIES yesterday extended a state of emergency in Thailand's capital, saying efforts to restore security were still incomplete after anti-government rioting last week and a brazen attack on a protest leader.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva met with security agencies to discuss the potential for more protests, riots or attacks in Bangkok, government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said.

Panitan said the state of emergency would continue because the situation is still "problematic, but as soon as things have calmed down, it will be lifted immediately."

"More and more, things are back to normal but there are still elements of concern."

In his weekly television address yesterday, Abhisit defended his government's actions in deploying troops to quell the violent protests that had paralyzed the capital. Two people were killed and more than 130 injured.

"What the government did was to restore peace for the benefit of all Thais.

More importantly, it was to allow the government to continue working," Abhisit said.

The anti-government protesters, known as "red shirts," want former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to return to power. Thaksin was ousted by a 2006 military coup.

Police said six men or seven men may have been involved in the pre-dawn attack on Friday on Sondhi Limthongkul, an outspoken media tycoon and Thaksin opponent.

Police spokesman Major General Suporn Pansua said investigators were studying a surveillance video taken from an intersection near the attack in an attempt to identify the assailants.

Video from the street surveillance camera showed two pickup trucks were following Sondhi's vehicle shortly before the shooting.

The assailants opened fire at Sondhi's car, riddling the windshield with bullet holes. Sondhi was slightly injured, while his driver was seriously wounded and an aide in the car also was hurt.

Sondhi, a founder of the People's Alliance for Democracy, helped organize and lead rival "yellow-shirt" protesters who helped force Thaksin's ousting in 2006 and drive his allies from power last year.


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