Thailand eases four year old ban on political activities
BANGKOK, Sept 14: Political parties in Thailand were on Friday allowed to resume organising for the first time since a 2014 military coup, in anticipation of a general election due by May, but a ban on gatherings or more than five people remains in place.
The military government has promised, and repeatedly delayed, a general election but steps this week, including royal endorsement of laws on the election of members of parliament and the selection of senators, are the surest signs yet the schedule for a return of democratic rule is being fixed.
Parties will now be permitted to elect their leaders, recruit new members and hold general party meetings if they are able to summon at least 250 members. The junta has repeatedly postponed elections, but King Maha Vajiralongkorn this week endorsed two bills that cleared bureaucratic hurdles to a much-anticipated poll.
An election is required to take place by May. Senior military leaders have floated a February 24 election date.
The military has been running Thailand since the May 2014 coup, when it ousted the civilian government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, citing the need to end street protests, and banned political activity in the name of peace and order.
The election will be held under a new constitution, written by an army-appointed committee, which critics say is designed to prolong the military's influence over politics for years to come through unelected bodies and other mechanisms.
The military says the constitution should eliminate cycles of political instability. -REUTERS