Date
26 May 2017
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha says his asked the Thai king for permission to repeal martial law and institute civilian measures many fear will be more draconian. Photo: Reuters
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha says his asked the Thai king for permission to repeal martial law and institute civilian measures many fear will be more draconian. Photo: Reuters

Thai strongman seeks expanded powers

Thailand Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha is seeking more sweeping executive powers to replace martial law.

That nudges the former general a step closer to absolute authority, according to the Washington Post.

Prayuth, who seized power in a military coup 10 months ago, asked King Bhumibol Adulyadej for permission to repeal martial law and institute measures that human rights activists say would be more draconian.

Invoking Article 44, as the section in the interim constitution is known, would give Prayuth the power to issue any order deemed necessary “to strengthen public unity and harmony” and to suppress any act that “undermines public peace and order”.

“I have asked for the king’s permission to lift martial law. The power is now with His Majesty,” Prayuth told reporters Tuesday.

The king is almost certain to rubber-stamp the request.

By handing broad powers to the head of the National Council for Peace and Order — as the junta is officially known — the new rules would be “much worse than martial law” which at least includes some checks and balances, said Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch in Bangkok.

The Thai military imposed martial law in May last year after months of street protests.

Shortly afterwards, it seized power from the democratically elected prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, and her government.

Western allies, led by the United States, have repeatedly expressed concerns about the use of martial law and the junta’s general suppression of both political dissent and the media.

Tourism operators and businesses have been urging an end to the instability that they say is scaring off visitors and investors.

Maj. Gen. Sunsern Kaewkumnerd, a spokesman for the junta, said that the change is needed because “foreign countries are concerned over our use of martial law”.

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CG/RA

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