Sun, Jun 15, 2014 - Page 1 News List

Nationwide curfew lifted in Thailand by military government

AP, BANGKOK

Thailand’s military government announced that it has fully lifted a nationwide curfew it imposed after seizing power last month, saying there is no threat of violence and that tourism needs to be revived.

However, political protests and criticism of the c oup remain banned by the junta, which said a return to elected civilian rule cannot be expected for at least 15 months.

The curfew had earlier been reduced to four hours from seven hours, and had been lifted in several resort areas popular with tourists after complaints from the tourism industry over the financial damage it was causing.

“The overall situation in other areas of the country has been resolved and there is no tendency toward possible violence. Therefore, in order to relieve and mitigate the impact on people’s daily lives, and to boost tourism by Thais and foreigners, the curfew order is being canceled in the rest of the country,” the junta said in a statement issued on Friday night over all domestic TV stations.

“It’s brilliant because like last night we wanted to see the World Cup match, but we couldn’t because it was on at 2am,” said Sinead Dowd, 27, a tourist from County Kerry, Ireland. “So yes, it’s great.”

In an address before the curfew announcement, army commander General Prayuth Chan-ocha briskly listed the junta’s achievements — including the seizure of weapons linked to political unrest, and scores of reconciliation meetings among rival political camps — and its plans, especially on the economic front.

“There are still many problems left,” he said. “Please give us time to deal with these problems.”

The army general told civil servants earlier on Friday that a temporary constitution would be drafted and an interim government installed in about three months, in his most specific timeline yet on a possible transfer of power after the coup.

He has said it could take more than a year after that for elections to be held because peace and reforms must be achieved first in the deeply divided country.

“A government will likely be set up in August or early September,” Prayuth said. “When ... we have a government, we will move forward. Then the reform council can begin.”

Among the areas where the curfew had remained in effect was the capital, Bangkok, because of its political volatility.

Prayuth has justified the coup as necessary to restore order.

Yet since taking power, the army appears to be carrying on the fight of the anti-government protesters by mapping out a similar agenda to redraft the constitution and institute political reforms before elections, just as they had demanded. It has also gone after politicians from the previous pro-government Red Shirt movement that had vowed to take action if there was a coup.

On Thursday, a Thai military court extended the detention of prominent activist Sombat Boonngam-anong for 12 more days. He has been held without charges since his arrest June 5, but has been informed that under Thai martial law he faces up to 14 years in prison on possible charges of inciting unrest, violating cyberlaws and defying the junta’s orders.

Sombat had spearheaded an online campaign calling for people to raise a three-finger salute borrowed from The Hunger Games to show opposition to the coup.

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