Wednesday 17 January 2018

Thailand's ruling junta ends martial law

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who seized power as part of a coup by the Thai army
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who seized power as part of a coup by the Thai army

Amy Sawitta Lefevre

Thailand's ruling junta has announced that it has lifted martial law across the country following on from its coup 10 months ago.

The military will retain sweeping powers after the junta invoked a special security measure, Article 44 of the country's interim constitution, in its place.

The measure will allow security forces to continue to make arrests without a court warrant and to detain people without charge.

"We have lifted martial law around the country," the junta said in a televised statement.

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The announcement came after Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej approved lifting the law which banned all political gatherings and gave the military wide-ranging powers.

"There is no need to use martial law anymore ... The king has allowed martial law to be lifted from April 1," said a Royal Gazette statement read out on national television.

Thailand's military seized power on May 22, ousting the government of former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra after months of sometimes violent street protests in Bangkok that left nearly 30 people dead.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who is also junta chief, said he would replace it with a new order retaining significant powers for the military.

The National Council for Peace and Order, as the junta is known, said in its statement that martial law would be replaced by Article 44, which gives Prayuth power over all aspects of government, law and order.

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Article 44 will allow the military to "catch anyone and hand them over to an investigation team", to help with investigations and to search buildings in the interests of national security, said the statement.

Use of the special security measure has sparked concern among rights groups, political parties and some academics who say it will give junta leader Prayuth unchecked authority.

But moves to lift martial law will come as a relief to tour operators who have repeatedly called for it to be lifted.

Tourism, which accounts for nearly 10 pc of Thailand's GDP, is still recovering from the effects of last year's coup and the imposition of martial law which has stopped some tourists from being able to buy travel insurance.

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