Thai authorities are "very seriously" considering a state of emergency after a weekend of violence in the capital where protesters have been trying for more than two months to bring down the government, the security chief said on Monday.
Though the size of the demonstrations has declined, protesters have managed to shut down some government offices, forcing Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to shift her workplace and snarl Bangkok's traffic.
"We're prepared to use the emergency decree... Everyone involved including the police, the military and the government is considering this option very seriously but has not yet come to an agreement," National Security Council chief Paradorn Pattantabutr told Reuters after a meeting with Yingluck.
"The protesters have said they will close various government offices. So far their closures have been symbolic, they go to government offices and then they leave. But if their tactics change and they close banks or government offices permanently then the chance for unrest increases and we will have to invoke this law," he said.
The emergency decree gives security agencies broad powers to impose curfews, detain suspects without charge, censor media, ban political gatherings of more than five people and declare parts of the country off limits.
One man was killed and dozens of people were wounded, some seriously, when grenades were thrown at anti-government protesters in the city centre on Friday and Sunday.
"I think these attacks have been designed to provoke an army reaction," said Paul Chambers, director of research at the Institute of South East Asian Affairs in Chiang Mai, predicting a measured increase in the violence.
That in turn could prompt the Election Commission to refuse to oversee the Feb. 2 election called by Yingluck and which the main opposition has said it will boycott, he said.
The protests, led by 64-year-old anti-government firebrand Suthep Thaugsuban, were triggered by Yingluck's moves last year to grant amnesty to her brother, the self-exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
Protesters accuse the billionaire businessman Thaksin of rampant graft and want to remove the influence of family, promising ill-defined political reforms.
The violence is the latest episode in an eight-year conflict that pits Bangkok's middle class