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    Apr 01, 2015

    Thai martial law may go, but army to retain powers?


    THAILAND'S junta chief said yesterday he would lift martial law, but only after replacing it with a new order retaining sweeping powers for the military.

    Critics warned the move may "deepen dictatorship" in the kingdom.

    Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said he had sought the country's ailing 87-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej permission to lift the controversial law.

    The former army chief said he would use Article 44 of the junta's interim Constitution to issue a new order protecting Thailand's security.

    Article 44 grants the junta chief the power to make executive orders on national security issues without having to go through the military-stacked Parliament.

    General Prayut said military courts would still be used for security offences, but convictions could now be appealed to higher tribunals.

    Security forces would continue to be able to make arrests without a court warrant, "otherwise it would be too late and a suspect could flee", he said.

    However, Gen Prayut did not say whether cases under Thailand's royal defamation law would continue to be prosecuted through military courts, or whether the ban on political gatherings would be lifted.

    He said he was determined to restore democracy to Thailand once the country's "complex problems" had been addressed.

    But he added: "We cannot let people enjoy freedom, otherwise there will be protests and the government won't be able to work."

    Gen Prayut imposed martial law and seized power in May following the ousting of Yingluck Shinawatra's democratically elected government, after months of often violent street protests.

    Sunsern Kaewkumnerd, a junta spokesman, told reporters that Gen Prayut felt the decision was necessary because "foreign countries were concerned over our use of martial law".

    Some businesses and tour operators have also called for the controversial law to be lifted.