Thai government to partially lift martial law imposed after 2006 coup

International Herald Tribune

The Associated Press

Published: October 12, 2007

BANGKOK, Thailand: Thailand’s military-installed government plans to lift martial law in 11 out of 35 provinces where it has been in place since a September 2006 coup ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Martial law was imposed nationwide in Thailand’s 76 provinces after the coup and gradually lifted in most areas, including the capital, Bangkok. It was maintained in areas considered strongholds of Thaksin’s support.

Deputy Prime Minister Sonthi Boonyaratglin, who led the coup and was until last week the country’s army commander, said the National Security Council had decided to lift martial law in 11 northeastern provinces.

The council also proposed imposing martial law in three northeastern provinces that border Laos because of growing problems with drug trafficking and illegal immigrants, Sonthi said.

The proposal, which would bring the numbers of martial law-imposed provinces down from 35 to 27 provinces, needs to be approved at next Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting and then endorsed by the country’s king.

The military rarely if ever exercised its powers under martial law, instead using the measure as a threat against possible opponents, such as supporters of Thaksin, who was ousted in the bloodless Sept. 19 coup. The measure mainly empowered the military to be in charge of security and make arrests without warrants in the name of maintaining order.

Critics have called on the government to lift martial law ahead of elections planned for December, saying political parties should be able to campaign freely without fear of military rule in their provinces.

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