Thai junta curbs political party activities

Thai junta curbs political party activities
Thai soldiers stand guard at Victory monument in Bangkok on June 8, 2014. Thousands of soldiers and police were deployed across Bangkok on June 8, an official said, as anti-coup protesters vowed to stage flashmob rallies in several locations in defiance of an army edict banning political assemblies.

THAILAND - The Thai junta has suspended political parties' activities as it seeks to decide whether it would allow large-scale building projects initiated by the ousted government to continue.

In an announcement yesterday to clarify which laws are still in place despite the May 22 coup, the junta said that political parties are not allowed to convene meetings or organise activities related to politics. The registration of new political parties was also suspended. There was no time frame given for this suspension, which mirrored the situation eight years ago when the military had staged another coup that ousted then prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

In the May 22 coup, the Thai army overthrew a Thaksin-linked caretaker government and swiftly clamped down on any possible resistance through pre-emptive detentions and strict surveillance of anti-coup activities.

Army chief and junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha has set a roughly 15-month time frame for fresh elections to be held, before which the junta would try to bridge political differences widened through the country's nearly decade-long political conflict.

The kingdom's rural masses and lower middle class have repeatedly returned Thaksin-linked parties to power, something which its royalist establishment and urban middle class attribute to corruption and populist policies.

This week, the junta is expected to start deciding on which infrastructure projects get the go-ahead. Among those under review are flood prevention projects in the 350 billion baht (S$13.5 billion) water management plan, as well as a 2 trillion baht plan to primarily double-track railways and build high-speed rail links. The latter was ruled as unconstitutional by Thailand's charter court in March.

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