Thailand's government declared a state of emergency Tuesday in Bangkok in an effort to stem the rising violence linked to anti-government protests ahead of the upcoming general elections.

The 60-day state of emergency declaration took effect at midnight and covers areas around the Thai capital, state-owned broadcaster MCOT reported.

The declaration allows the security forces to arrest people without charging them, impose a curfew, break up public gatherings of more than five people and censor the news media.

At least nine people have been killed and more than 500 others injured since protesters began occupying government ministries last November.

The violence has increased since protesters started blocking and occupying more than a dozen major streets in Bangkok on Jan. 13.

Grenade attacks have killed one person and wounded 63 others in the capital.

Police are searching for a middle-aged man who threw two grenades in the protest zone around Bangkok's Victory Monument on Sunday afternoon, wounding 28 people.

The protesters want Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to resign and an unelected council to take her place and carry out democratic reforms.

Some protest leaders and politicians have called for a boycott of the Feb. 2 general election.

Yingluck's Pheu Thai Party is considered a lock to win the elections because of the support she enjoys in rural areas of Thailand.

The election was scheduled after Yingluck dissolved Parliament in a bid to ease the growing political tensions.

The unrest has been fueled, in part, by her attempt to push through an amnesty law that would have allowed her self-exiled brother, billionaire former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, to return to the country.

Thaksin, who is extremely popular in rural Thailand but considered a corrupt, populist autocrat by critics, was ousted in a bloodless 2006 coup. EFE