Thailand to lift martial law, military ‘deepens dictatorship’
Thail and’s junta chief said on Tuesday he would lift martial law but only after replacing it with a new order retaining sweeping powers for the military.
Critics said the move would “deepen dictatorship” in the kingdom.
Prime Minister Prayuth ChanOcha said he had asked the ailing 87-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej for permission to lift the controversial law, which would then be replaced with special security measures.
The former army chief imposed martial law and seized power last May following the ousting of Yingluck Shinawatra’s democratically elected government after months of often violent street protests.
It was the latest twist in a decade of political conflict broadly pitting a Bangkok-based middle class and royalist elite — backed by parts of the military and judiciary — against pro-Shinawatra urban workingclass voters and farmers from the country’s north.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Prayuth said a new order to replace martial law would be “issued very soon.”
Junta officials said the measures, which have yet to be fully defined, would create a “better atmosphere” in the kingdom, where dissent has been strongly suppressed since the military takeover. But human rights groups expressed alarm that an executive order could allow Prayuth to wield even greater powers.
Maj. Gen. Sunsern Kaewkumnerd, a junta spokesman, told reporters Prayuth felt the decision was necessary because “foreign countries were concerned over our use of martial law.”
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok said they would welcome the lifting of martial law if it led “to the full restoration of civil liberties.”
Under the law the army has been able to prosecute those accused of national security and royal defamation offences in military courts with no right of appeal. The media, meanwhile, has been muzzled.
In his first public comments on what might replace martial law, Prayuth clearly indicated that the military would retain significant powers. The former army chief said he would use Article 44 of the junta’s interim constitution to issue a new order protecting Thailand’s security. The article grants Prayuth power to make executive orders on national security issues without having to go through the militarystacked parliament.