Thailand yesterday announced the end of a state of emergency in Bangkok and surrounding areas, hoping to encourage the return of foreign visitors following an easing of deadly protests.
The use of emergency rule, imposed nearly two months ago, dealt a heavy blow to Thailand's key tourism industry during what is usually the peak season, and also raised fears of a drop in foreign investment.
The state of emergency will be replaced by another special law, the Internal Security Act, with effect from today until April 30, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's office announced.
"We're confident that we can handle the situation, so the cabinet agreed to revoke the state of emergency as requested by many parties," Yingluck said. "The cancellation is to build confidence in the economy and the tourism sector."
Yingluck has faced more than four months of political protests aimed at ousting her elected government and installing an unelected "people's council" to oversee reforms.
The state of emergency was introduced in the run-up to a February 2 general election called by the premier in an unsuccessful attempt to calm the crisis.
Political bloodshed, often targeting protesters, has left 23 people dead and hundreds wounded in recent months, including in grenade attacks and shootings.
However, attendance at demonstrations has fallen sharply in recent weeks while the introduction of emergency rule failed to prevent protesters disrupting the February election.
The demonstrators late last month moved to scale back their rallies, consolidating at one site in Bangkok's Lumpini Park as they ended their so-called Bangkok shutdown, which had seen them occupy key road intersections.
Thailand has been periodically rocked by mass demonstrations staged by rival protest groups since a military coup in 2006 that ousted then-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck's brother. Her opponents say she is a puppet of Thaksin, who fled overseas in 2008 to avoid jail for a corruption conviction.
The February election has not been completed in some areas because of disruption by the protests, leaving Yingluck's government in a caretaker role with limited powers.