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Martial law lifted, business welcomes move

The Thai and foreign business communities welcomed Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s decision to lift martial law last week, saying it would improve business sentiment, while the government works to allay concerns expressed by human rights groups about the executive powers under the interim constitution.
 
Prime Minister Prayut announced the decision to end martial law early last week, and the law was lifted on April 1.  Upon the news that martial law had come to a close, several leading members of the business community quickly voiced their approval.
 
“The good news is that tourism has been increasing, and that is a positive sign. The fact that martial law can be lifted is also a positive sign, not just for tourists but also a positive sign that the government feels [that] perhaps the situation in Thailand is much more stable now,” said Darren Buckley, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Thailand.
 
Martial law was imposed by then Army Commander in Chief General Prayut in May 2014 to quell violence and mass demonstrations that had resulted in 28 deaths, nearly 800 wounded and sent the economy into contraction.
 
Although the terms of martial law were soon eased in popular tourist destinations, businesses, and particularly tourism-related businesses, have been pushing for an end to martial law for months.  Because of martial law, some countries issued travel advisories concerning Thailand, and travel and tour companies faced obstacles in providing insurance for their customers visiting Thailand, causing some to cancel packages.
 
Opinion polls showed, however, that a majority of Thais supported the imposition and continuation of martial law to prevent possible outbreaks of unrest by some partisan political activist groups.  Most poll respondents said that martial law had not interfered in their daily lives.
 
To maintain peace and security without martial law, an Order by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) was issued using the provision in Article 44 of the interim constitution to prescribe the scope and measures that may be undertaken toward that end.   Article 44 grants powers to the Head of the NCPO to adopt measures to deal with actions intended to undermine national security, threaten public order, and promote reform and reconciliation.
 
Human rights groups, however, raised a red flag over Article 44, warning that the Prime Minister could possibly misuse his power if no checks and balances on it exist.  
 
Members of the current government sought to strongly allay any concerns that Prime Minister Prayut would use Article 44 in ways that would be considered abusive.
 
“The Prayut government and the National Council for Peace and Order [NCPO] do not intend to use Article 44 in a violent manner, but we want to use the law for national reconciliation and reform,'' said Wissanu Krea-ngam, a deputy prime minister and legal expert.  He said the article could not be directly used to harm an individual, as widely misunderstood.  Its impact still remains to be seen on a case-by-case basis as to whether it is legitimate or not.
 
During a briefing in Bangkok earlier today, the Deputy Prime Minister told members of the diplomatic corps that the power under Article 44 has been invoked for the purpose of assuring continuity and stability during the reform process, including the reconciliation process.
 
As reported by The Nation, Wissanu said five groups of people might be affected, namely: those who had lost their political power after the coup; those who have been affected by social or economic measures imposed by the NCPO; those who wanted to stir up a crisis in society; those who want to interrupt the promulgation of the new constitution, including pushing for election for their own benefit; and people who would like to express their opinion in a radical way in response to injustice from officials.
 
Army chief and Deputy Defense Minister Udomdej Sitabutr said the Article would mainly be used against those perpetrating violence. “There will not be violations of human rights by invoking this law but the law will better help the government protect human rights,’’ he said.
 
Earlier, Article 44 was once invoked in January to extend the term of local administrators to remain in office until the new election is held under the new constitution. Subsequently, it has been invoked to allow the government to fast-track the land allocation project in order to allocate land plots legally seized from those encroaching on protected forests to poor landless families. The Prime Minister has also stated he intends to use the power to speed up all measures necessary to address air safety concerns raised by the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO).
 
See the original article at Thailand Focus

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