Thai gov't maintains state of emergency, martial law in restive south

Thailand's Cabinet approved a three-month extension of emergency powers in the country's insurgency-plagued southern provinces Friday. Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej said the state of emergency, imposed since July 2005, "is unlikely to be in place forever, but it is still necessary for now." Emergency powers, which are renewed by the Cabinet every three months, cover the provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat, where an insurgency has left more than 3,000 dead since violence flared in 2004. Southern Muslims, the majority in Buddhist Thailand's far south, accuse the central government of discrimination, especially in jobs and education. The state of emergency allows the government to impose curfews, prohibit public gatherings, censor and ban publications, detain suspects without charge, confiscate property and tap telephones. It also gives officials legal immunity for acts - including killings - carried out under its provisions. Human rights activists have criticized the continued use of emergency rule, saying it has failed to contain violence and has worsened the situation by allowing violations of constitutional rights.