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Martial law to continue: Thailand

The military-installed government says supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra still intend to create political chaos.
None | By Associated Press, Bangkok
PUBLISHED ON OCT 23, 2006 01:36 PM IST

Thailand's military-installed government said on Monday it will maintain martial law because supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra still intend to create political chaos.

"As long as the situation remains not calm, martial law cannot be lifted," Defence Minister Gen Boonrawd Somtat told reporters.

"If there are no political undercurrents, the opportunity to lift martial law will come faster."

Boonrawd said the coup leaders had talked to supporters of Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party in a bid to stop any moves against the interim government.

The military staged a bloodless coup on Sept 19 when Thaksin was in New York on an official trip and appointed an interim government led by Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, a former army commander.

He has promised to step down after a new constitution is drafted and a general election held in October next year.

The international community has called on the Thai government to lift martial law as soon as possible.

Among other restrictions on civil liberties, the law bars public gatherings of more than five people.

The government has eased the restriction by allowing public gatherings in indoor areas.

Surayud has traveled to north and northeast Thailand, where Thaksin's support was strong among the rural poor.

He hoped to appease pro-Thaksin groups and stop them from organizing any action against the government.

Noppadol Patthama, Thaksin's legal adviser, told a news conference Sunday that Thaksin was not involved in any movement against the current government.

"Anything that causes divisiveness in Thailand, the former prime minister doesn't want it," he said.

Noppadol said that after martial law is lifted, he hoped Thaksin "will have an opportunity to return to the country as other people do."

Thaksin, a telecom tycoon turned politician, portrayed himself as a champion of the poor, and his policies such as low-cost health care and funds for village development earned him massive popularity in rural areas.

His party won landslide victories in the 2001 and 2005 elections. However, he was increasingly opposed by the urban elite and middle class which accused him of corruption and abuse of power.

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