Sat, Nov 25, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Thailand may lift martial law in part by end of year

SITUATION ASSESSMENT An anti-coup movement operating mostly in the north means the government may restrict the change to provinces considered loyal

AFP , BANGKOK

Thai generals said yesterday they might lift martial law at least partially before the end of the year, if they decide a feared anti-coup movement is no longer a threat.

"It depends on the situation and the movement of various groups. We have to take that into consideration when deciding whether to abolish martial law," said Air Force Chief Chalit Pukbhasuk, a member of the ruling junta.

Earlier, a junta leader said that martial law could be lifted by the end of the year. But soon after, other generals described that as a best-case scenario.

"Martial law could be lifted in December," Defense Minister General Boonrawd Somtas told reporters. "There are two scenarios -- it might be lifted before the end of the year, but the latest it would be lifted is early next year,"

The secretary general of the Council for National Security (CNS), as the junta calls itself, said that martial law might be lifted only in parts of the country by the end of this year.

"Council for National Security will have to discuss which areas we will lift martial law," General Winai Phattiyakul said.

"Initially we will lift it in some areas, on a province by province basis, and provinces with [anti-coup] undercurrents will remain under martial law," he said.

Sonthi ousted twice-elected prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in a bloodless coup on Sept. 19 and has kept the nation under martial law since then.

The junta has said that martial law remains in place because of anti-coup "undercurrents", especially in northern Thailand where support for Thaksin is believed to remain strong.

Chalit said anti-coup groups have tried to discredit the junta by passing around leaflets accusing the generals of planning to hang on to power after elections promised for next October.

Thailand's military-installed Prime Minister said on Tuesday last week that lifting martial law was "not urgent."

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