Thai Military Ease Political Activity

Thailand’s military-led interim government has partially eased some restrictions on the activities of political parties.

Thailand has enacted new laws mandating a general election by May next year. This could pave the way to ending control by the military, which overthrew a democratically elected government in 2014. However, people remain skeptical as the regime has repeatedly postponed long-promised elections.

The two bills were approved on September 12th by King Maha Vajiralongkorn and officially published in the Royal Gazette. One law governs election of the Lower House and the other appointment to the Senate. Their enactment came amid increasing domestic and international pressure to end prolonged military rule and restore democracy.

Opposition groups cautiously welcomed the new laws. The military government has banned political assembly larger than 5 people in the name of peace and order. Opposition parties want to see this ban lifted before heading into a general election.

The interim government on Friday announced the relaxation on the ban, which was put in place following a military coup in 2014.

The move comes two days after the Thai government announced regulations for the holding of a general election, paving the way for polls to be held sometime between February and May next year.

Parties will now be allowed to hold meetings to elect their leaders and select their candidates.

Calls are growing at home and abroad for a democratically elected government.
But the interim government can still postpone the election, as the Constitution allows a change in electoral schedules for reasons such as a worsening security situation.

The ban on public gatherings remains in place, despite calls by political parties for it to be lifted.

However, United States on Friday imposed sanctions against a Thai aviation company that it said was acting on behalf of Iran’s Mahan Air, which it accused of ferrying troops and supplies into Syria. The actions target My Aviation Company Ltd in Bangkok and modifies sanctions against Malaysia-based Mahan Travel and Tourism, according to a US Treasury statement. Mahan Air is already under US sanctions. Mahan Air continues to fly into Syria every week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. The sanctions come as Turkey said on Friday it was talking to all parties in the Syrian conflict, including Iran and Russia, to prevent a Syrian government offensive on Idlib province

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