Thailand’s junta lifts curfew throughout country

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BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand’s military government has fully lifted a curfew it imposed nationwide after seizing power last month, saying there is no threat of violence.

The measure, effective immediately, was announced Friday night over all domestic television stations.

Political protests and criticism of the coup, however, remain banned by the junta, which said a return to elected civilian rule cannot be expected for at least 15 months.

In a televised address before the curfew announcement, army commander Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha briskly listed the junta’s achievements — including the seizure of weapons linked to political unrest — and its plans, especially on the economic front.

“There are still many problems left,” he acknowledged. “Please give us time to deal with these problems.”

Prayuth told civil servants earlier Friday that a temporary constitution would be drafted and an interim government installed in about three months, in his most specific timeline yet on a possible transfer of power after last month’s coup.

He has said it could take more than a year after that for elections to be held because peace and reforms must be achieved first in the deeply divided country.

“A government will likely be set up in August or early September,” Prayuth said. “When … we have a government, we will move forward. Then the reform council can begin.”

The curfew that ended Friday had already been reduced to four hours from seven hours, and had been lifted in several resort areas popular with tourists after complaints from the tourism industry over the financial damage it was causing.

“The overall situation in other areas in the country has been resolved and there is no tendency of causes of possible violence. Therefore, in order to relieve and mitigate the impact on people’s daily lives, and to boost tourism by Thais and foreigners, the curfew order is being canceled in the rest of the country,” the junta said in a statement.

Among the areas where the curfew had remained in effect was the capital, Bangkok, because of its political volatility. Until the May 22 coup, it had been the scene of a half a year of anti-government protests and political turmoil that left at least 28 people dead and the government paralyzed.

The government had been elected by a majority of voters three years ago. Prayuth has justified the coup as necessary to restore order.

But since taking power, the army appears to be carrying on the fight of the anti-government protesters by mapping out a similar agenda to redraft the constitution and institute political reforms before elections, just as they had demanded. It has also gone after politicians from the previous pro-government “Red Shirt” movement that had vowed to take action if there was a coup.

On Thursday, a military court extended the detention of prominent activist Sombat Boonngam-anong for 12 more days. He has been held without charges since his arrest June 5, but has been informed that under martial law he faces up to 14 years in prison on possible charges of inciting unrest, violating cyber laws and defying the junta’s orders.

Sombat had spearheaded an online campaign calling for people to raise a three-finger salute borrowed from “The Hunger Games” to show opposition to the coup.

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