Thai PM’s plan to lift martial law with ‘dictator’ ruling sparks concerns

    Critics say Article 44, ‘the dictator law’, would give Prayuth Chan-ocha unchecked authority over all branches of government

    Associated Press in Bangkok | Tuesday 31 March 2015 10.37 BST

    Thailand’s military-installed prime minister has said he plans to lift martial law 10 months after staging a coup, but will invoke a special security measure that critics say is more draconian.

    The development has sparked concern from human rights groups, lawyers, political parties and scholars who say the measure, Article 44 of a junta-imposed interim constitution, gives Prayuth Chan-ocha unchecked authority over all three branches of government.

    Prayuth, the former army commander who led the 22 May 2014 coup that overthrew an elected government, told reporters on Tuesday he was seeking the approval of the king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, to revoke martial law. The monarch’s approval is considered a formality.

    Prayuth has faced growing pressure to scrap martial law, which places the military in charge of public security nationwide and has been criticised as a deterrent to tourists and foreign investors.

    Thai media have referred to Article 44 as “the dictator law”. Under a similar law in the 1960s, a Thai dictator carried out summary executions.

    The measure gives Prayuth power over all aspects of government, law and order, and absolves him of any legal responsibility for his actions.

    “Article 44 essentially means Prayuth is the law. He can order the detention of anyone without charge, without having to put the person on trial and for as long as he desires,” Pravit Rojanaphruk, an outspoken columnist for the Nation newspaper, wrote on Tuesday.

    Prayuth sought to downplay the concerns, telling reporters he would use Article 44 “constructively” to solve security issues.

    “Don’t worry,” he told reporters after a cabinet meeting. “If you’re not doing anything wrong, there’s no need to be afraid.”