Thailand to lift martial law from Bangkok

Bangkok, November 28:

Thailand’s government today said that martial law will be lifted across half of the country, including Bangkok, in the first easing of restrictions since the September coup.

But military rule will remain in force across much of Thailand’s rural northern heartland, as well as in provinces in the far south, Defence Minister Boonrawd Somtas said. Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej still must sign off on the decision.

Martial law is now set to end in 41 provinces, mainly in the central part of the country.

In the 35 other provinces, Boonrawd said it would remain in effect “due to both domestic and foreign security concerns, as well as concerns about drug smuggling and illegal immigration.” The northern tourist spot of Chiang Mai, birthplace of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, is among the regions to remain under martial law. Two of the biggest cities in northeastern Thailand, Khon Kaen and Buri Ram, will also stay under military rule.

In its decision, the cabinet largely followed recommendations made yesterday by Thailand’s junta chief, General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, but rejected his proposal to keep martial law in Bangkok. Sonthi, who has reserved for the junta the power to sack the premier, warned yesterday that he would hold Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont responsible for any incidents that might occur.