Thailand's Cabinet has passed sweeping emergency laws, giving the prime minister power to tap phones, censor newspapers and detain suspects without charge as the government tries to stem rising violence in the Muslim south.
The "Emergency Powers Act" to replace localized martial law was passed early today (Friday) in an emergency Cabinet meeting called by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
The action was taken after a Muslim town was raided by suspected Islamic militants late Thursday in well-coordinated attacks, killing two police officers and wounding 22 other people. Authorities say the attackers blew up power transformers to black out the provincial capital of Yala, then opened fire and tossed homemade firebombs from motorcycles.
More than 800 people have been killed in almost daily attacks since a Muslim insurgency broke out in southern Thai provinces (Narathiwat, Yala, Pattani) 18 months ago.