HUA HIN — Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Friday that martial law would be lifted and replaced by an order that gives the military junta equally sweeping authority to deal with events as needed.
Gen Prayut did not say when martial law would be ended. It has been in effect since May 20 last year, two days before the military coup that brought him to power.
The decision to lift martial law was his own, the prime minister told a news conference after a cabinet meeting at an army recreation centre at Suanson Pradipat in Hua Hin.
There was no need to consult the cabinet, said Gen Prayut, who is also the chairman of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).
"I’ve thought it through," he said, adding that he would take full responsibility for the decision.
Martial law will be replaced by Section 44 of the interim constitution, he added.
The section is one of the most controversial in the charter drafted immediately after the coup, as it gives the NCPO chairman sweeping powers to maintain peace and order. It reads as follows:
"In the case where the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order is of the opinion that it is necessary for the benefit of reform in any field and to strengthen public unity and harmony, or for the prevention, disruption or suppression of any act which undermines public peace and order or national security, the Monarchy, national economics or administration of State affairs, whether that act originates inside or outside the Kingdom, the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order shall have the powers to make any order to disrupt or suppress regardless of the legislative, executive or judicial force of that order. In this case, that order, act or any performance in accordance with that order is deemed to be legal, constitutional and conclusive, and it shall be reported to the National Legislative Assembly and the Prime Minister without delay."
Gen Prauyut said: "[I] am prepared to use [Section 44] to replace martial law. When it will be enforced depends on the situation."
The end of martial law needs endorsement from His Majesty the King. Then the NCPO will issue an order to exercise its power through Section 44.
Thailand is under pressure from international organisations including the United Nations and the European Union to end martial law as it gives power to authorities to try civilians in military court, among other things.
Gen Prayut held a working dinner with other NCPO members on Friday night and will conclude his visit to Hua Hin with another informal meeting with them on Saturday.