11/10/2006, 00.00
THAILAND
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Parliament to lift ban on "political gatherings", then martial law

Thai Legislative Assembly unanimously backs motion. Military junta announces it will likely lift marital law "within ten days".

Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Thailand's parliament has backed a government proposal to lift a ban, imposed after the September 19 coup, on political gatherings of more than five people. The military junta is also likely to lift martial law "within ten days".

Deputy Interior Minister Banyat Jansena told reporters that the 242-member National Legislative Assembly "has debated the measure and unanimously agreed with the post-coup government's plan to lift the ban."

"The ban has obstructed people's ability to participate in political activities," he explained. "Now the government is giving them the chance to gather for political reasons."

Although the decree will take effect within a week, the ban was never really implemented.

Following its takeover, the military imposed martial law, scrapped planned elections, and banned political gatherings. But several groups, including trade unions, student activists and shop owners, defied the ban and held demonstrations with minimal police presence and no retaliation from Thailand's military-backed rulers.

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