Thailand plans to lift martial law before Jan

Updated on Nov 24, 2006 01:30 PM IST

Earlier this month, the Govt lifted a ban on public gatherings of more than five people, which authorities had been lax about enforcing.

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None | ByAssociated Press, Bangkok

Thailand's military-installed government said on Friday it would lift martial law before the end of the year.

"Martial law will definitely be lifted before the new year," Defence Minister Bunrod Somtad told reporters, saying the government anticipated ending the emergency power during the month of December.

Bunrod's comment was the latest in a series of government statements on when it will lift the restriction, which was imposed after a September 19 coup that ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said as recently as last week that the government had no immediate plan to lift martial law.

Earlier this month, he said that martial law could be lifted in parts of the country, but the military would have to decide when and where.

Bunrod said a few weeks ago that the government would consider ending martial law before the summit of Asian and Pacific leaders, which took place in Vietnam last weekend.

More consistently, the government has said it would lift the emergency power once the post-coup situation in Thailand had stabilised.

In daily Thai life, there was little sign of martial law being enforced.

Earlier this month, the government lifted a ban on public gatherings of more than five people, which authorities had been lax about enforcing.

There was no curfew imposed at any time. Mainly, martial law empowered the military to be in charge of security and make arrests without warrants in the name of maintaining order.

Observers have commented that coup leaders were using martial law as a way to keep Thaksin out of the country.

Thaksin has been traveling around Asia in recent weeks, after spending the immediate post-coup weeks in London, where he owns an apartment.

The government has said that Thaksin should not return to Thailand until after elections scheduled for October 2007.

The coup makers have accused Thaksin of massive corruption and abuse of power and have set up several anti-graft bodies to investigate alleged wrongdoing by the fallen government.

Western nations have denounced the coup as a setback to democracy and have called on the interim government to lift martial law.

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