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Thai Prime Minister Lifts Week-Old State of Emergency

Pro-democracy activists march by Government House, the prime minister's offices, during a protest in Bangkok, Thailand, Oct. 21, 2020.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha has lifted a state of emergency he imposed one week ago but which failed to bring an end to months of protests seeking his ouster and reforms of the country’s constitutional monarchy.

The government announced the end of the emergency decree in a written statement Thursday, saying the situation had eased to the point where “government officials and state agencies can enforce the regular laws.”

Prayuth issued the state of emergency last week after tens of thousands of protesters marched on his office at Government House in Bangkok and vowed not to leave until he agreed to step down.

Despite the ban on public gatherings of more than four people issued in the decree, mass demonstrations continued in the Thai capital, prompting Prayuth to announce on national television Wednesday that he was planning to lift the state of emergency.

However, the protesters have promised to resume the demonstrations if he did not resign by Saturday.

Prayuth is a former army general who seized power in a 2014 coup that ousted the elected civilian government. He won election to the post last year, but protesters say the vote was rigged in his favor due to laws drafted by the military.

In addition to changes to the constitution, demonstrators are also seeking to reduce the influence of the Thai monarchy. The institution maintains a divine-like status among Thailand’s elite, and is protected by strict “lese majeste” laws that allow for imprisonment of anyone convicted of insulting the monarchy.

Earlier Wednesday, Thai courts reversed a decision to shut down Voice TV — a media outlet partly owned by the family of exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Voice TV is one of four media outlets under investigation by the government for their coverage of the protest movement.