The decision came after a spate of violent attacks which killed nine people and injured several hundreds since the protest began in early November.
Caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said the government decided to enforce the Emergency Decree in light of intimidation and unlawful activity by the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) which has cut power and water supplies, coerced state officials and businessmen to blow whistles at other people, and successively created unrest.
Caretaker Labour Minister Chalerm Yubamrung was appointed director of the newly-formed Centre for the Administration of Peace while National Police Chief Adul Saengsingkaew is chief of the centre.
The Emergency Decree covers Bangkok, Nonthaburi, Bangplee district of Samut Prakan, and Lad Lumkaew district of Pathum Thani.
Mr Surapong said the objective of the Emergency Decree was to take action against supporters of rallies so that the democratic process and Thailand will move on, adding that the protests have escalated and violence was triggered by ill-intentioned people.
He said the government will abide by international standards and avoid using weapons against protesters.
Foreign diplomats in Thailand will be invited to a briefing tomorrow, he added.
Mr Chalerm said the government will strictly abide by the law and the democratic system in solving the problems and allow protesters to exercise their constitutional rights with peaceful and unarmed demonstrations.
The authorities will negotiate with protesters rather than suppressing them with force, he said.
Paradorn Patanatabut, secretary general of the National Security Council, said government authorities will convince protesters to disperse from the rally site on Changwattana Road.
Government authorities will be assigned to guard the government’s Kurusapa printing house to ensure a smooth general election while the Bluesky TV channel, the key media for the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), will not be closed, he said.
Election ballots are printed at Kurusupa printing house. It was seized by PDRC protesters last week.
PDRC secretary general, Suthep Thaugsuban, said the caretaker government was not empowered to invoke the Emergency Decree to deal with unarmed protesters who have been demonstrating peacefully.
He said the decree showed the government’s determination to suppress protesters while violent incidents were triggered by the government itself.
“We will fight on. If the government suppresses people, it is committing offences in the eyes of Thai people and the world,” he said.