Regime lifts overseas travel ban for many critics

Regime lifts overseas travel ban for many critics

The junta has loosened its grip on politicians and dissidents by lifting the overseas travel ban many of them were facing, starting on June 1.

Only those facing court proceedings would still need to go through regular channels to seek permission to go abroad, said Maj Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd, a government spokesman.

The decision was made on Friday when chiefs of the armed forces, police and security agencies met to evaluate the political climate ahead of the Aug 7 referendum on the draft constitution.

"All units reported the situation is calm. While there are differences in opinion, it is considered normal and won't obstruct progress," said Maj Gen Sansern.

"While the meeting didn't discuss the ban on political parties, the issue was mentioned."

Political parties have been prohibited from holding meetings since the May 22, 2014 coup. As a result, they can't pass resolutions on controversial issues such as the draft charter.

Maj Gen Sansern said the government and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) wanted to show that they understood and were listening to criticism so that the country could move forward. "Anything that can be relaxed will be," he added.

He cited as an example Pichai Narithaphan, a Pheu Thai MP who had been summoned for multiple "attitude adjustment" sessions for criticising economic policies. "He can now go abroad if he doesn't have pending court cases."

But the spokesman said people such as former Pheu Thai minister Watana Muangsook and former premier Yingluck Shinawatra would not benefit from the relaxation because they were on trial.

He dismissed concerns that some people would exploit their newfound freedom by criticising the government at international forums or flying to meet fugitive former PM Thaksin Shinawatra.

"Such things are beyond our control. We won't try to control uncontrollable things so it all depends on one's conscience," he said

The spokesman denied the move was the result of pressure from foreign countries. Many western governments have expressed concerns about curbs on human rights in Thailand, which was also roasted at a recent UN forum to review its rights record.

"The government and the NCPO have listened to all groups of people. We'll relax what we can to avoid being understood as keeping watch only on one side," said Maj Gen Sansern.

Three months after the coup, the junta summoned at least 563 people to report to it by announcing their names on television broadcasts. Most were politicians and anti-coup academics and critics, according to data from iLaw.

They were brought to unknown locations for what became known as attitude-adjustment sessions. It was revealed later that they were released only after they signed an agreement.

On the form they signed, they agreed they had not been tortured or hurt during detention and none of their personal belongings were missing. They also agreed they would not go abroad without approval from the junta.

Another condition was that they must not take part in or finance any political activity or join a polticial assembly.

Failure to comply would result in prosecution with a jail term of up to two years and/or a fine of up to 40,000 baht and suspension of their financial transactions.

The attitude adjustment sessions continue and hundreds more people have been taken in, but their names are no longer announced in public broadcasts.

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