Asia

Thai military government replaces martial law

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha Image copyright EPA
Image caption Gen Prayuth announced on TV that the king "has allowed martial law to be lifted"

Thailand's military government has announced it is lifting martial law, 10 months after it was imposed.

It was introduced in May 2014, shortly before the army staged a coup.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha announced the move in a televised statement and has said it will be replaced by a new security order.

However, the new measure has drawn considerable criticism, with many fearing that it could give the military more power than it had before.

A US State Department representative, quoted by Reuters news agency, expressed concern that the new measures would not ease curbs on basic rights.

The representative said any new measures should also seek to allow freedom of expression and end practices such the trial of civilians in military courts as well as detentions without charge.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Thailand's military rulers have been accused of a crackdown on the press

Gen Prayuth made the announcement late on Wednesday, saying the king had given his formal approval to the lifting of martial law.

The tourism industry - vital to Thailand's economy - was among the critics of martial law, saying it was stifling the sector.

However, Gen Prayuth said the law would be replaced by bringing into force Article 44 of a new constitution, which has been heavily criticised by human rights groups.

Article 44 allows the prime minister to issue executive orders to "disrupt or suppress" threats to national security or the monarchy, and Gen Prayuth has said that under the new measure soldiers would be "able to apprehend people, if an incident occurs, without an arrest warrant".

The Thai military government - officially known as the National Council for Peace and Order - has promised to restore democracy and hold elections in late 2015, but has repeatedly cracked down on dissent, jailing critics and censoring the media.

The army seized power last May ousting the elected government following months of unrest.

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