Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Thai junta ends country-wide curfew

Army commander Prayuth Chan-Ocha, the head of Thailand's military junta (AP)
Army commander Prayuth Chan-Ocha, the head of Thailand's military junta (AP)

Thailand's military government has fully lifted a curfew it imposed nationwide after seizing power last month, saying there is no threat of violence.

The measure, effective immediately, was announced on all domestic television stations.

The curfew had already been reduced from seven hours to four, and had been lifted in several resort areas popular with tourists after complaints from the tourism industry over the financial damage it was causing.

The curfew had remained in effect in the capital Bangkok because of its political volatility. Until the May 22 coup, it had been the scene of occasional violence triggered by months of anti-government street demonstrations. Political protests and criticism of the coup have been banned by the junta.

A junta statement said: "The overall situation in other areas in the country has been resolved and there is no tendency of causes of possible violence. Therefore, in order to relieve and mitigate the impact on people's daily lives, and to boost tourism by Thais and foreigners, the curfew order is being cancelled in the rest of the country."

Political protests and criticism of the coup remain banned by the junta.

Earlier today, the head of the junta said an interim government would be set up by September, providing the most specific timeline yet on a possible transfer of power after last month's coup.

Army commander General Prayuth Chan-ocha has already said it could take more than a year for new elections to be held because peace and reforms must be achieved first.

He said a temporary constitution would be drafted and an interim government installed in the next three months.

"A government will likely be set up in August or early September," Gen Prayuth told a meeting of civil servants. "When ... we have a government, we will move forward. Then the reform council can begin."

The panel tasked with instituting political reforms in the deeply divided country will include rivals from Thailand's long-running political conflict, he said.

The army overthrew a government that had been elected by a majority of voters three years ago. Gen Prayuth has justified the coup as a necessary action to restore order after half a year of anti-government protests and political turmoil that left at least 28 people dead and the government paralysed.

Ssince taking power, the army appears to be carrying on the fight of the anti-government protesters by mapping out a similar agenda to redraft the constitution and institute political reforms before elections. It has also gone after politicians from the grass-roots "Red Shirt" movement that had vowed to take action if there was a coup.

Yesterday, a military court extended the detention of prominent activist Sombat Boonngam-anong for an additional 12 days. He has been held without charges since his arrest on June 5, but has been informed that under martial law he faces up to 14 years in prison on possible charges of inciting unrest, violating cyber laws and defying the junta's orders.

Mr Sombat had spearheaded an online campaign calling for people to raise a three-finger salute borrowed from The Hunger Games to show opposition to the coup.

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