Despite growing pressure from the international community to lift martial law in Thailand, it cannot be lifted, as the political situation is still unstable, the country's chief military ruler has said.
General Sondhi Boonyaratkalin who led the successful September 19 coup d'etat against then caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra also said the ousted leader living in self-exile in London would need the new rulers' permission to return to Thailand.
In an exclusive interview to the English language daily The Nation, Gen Sonthi said he was concerned about the international criticism of martial law and wanted to lift it as quickly as possible.
"Personally, I want to quickly abolish the martial law enforcement considering negative views against it from the outside world.
But for now, the law still has its merit in helping control national security.
Those who might be planning unrest would be deterred by the power of the law," the coup leader said.
"I can't give you the exact timing of the lifting the martial law. Please let me just say we will do it as soon as possible, although we can right away ease certain related measures," he added.
Asked if the ousted former Prime Minister could choose to return to Thailand on his own, for example on a chartered flight, Gen Sondhi replied, "I will not allow him to land. He would have to notify me first if he wanted to come back."
Gen Sondhi also ruled out the possibility of Thaksin being put under house arrest if he were to return.
"That will not happen. I will just not let him return without seeking permission from the CNS (Council for National Security headed by Gen Sondhi) first."
"He (Thaksin) has representatives here and his party has found a new leader now. If he's really concerned about the country, he shouldn't try to come back at present.