Martial law lifted in over half of Thailand

Updated: 2007-01-27 09:16
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The Thai Army-controlled TV Channel 5 announced on Friday night that the King of Thailand Bhumibol Adulyadej has signed the royal decree on lifting martial law in 41 of the kingdom's 76 provinces, including Bangkok.

The decree will be effective from Friday, Jan. 26.

Thai media had been confused by earlier reports by Western media on Friday which quoted Thailand's army chief and chairman of Council for National Security (CNS) General Sonthi Boonyaratkalin as saying in an interview with United States news group CNN that the martial law in over half of the country has been officially lifted.

Local broadcasts of the interview on CNN, recorded earlier and released after 7 p.m. (1200 GMT) on Friday, was blocked, repeating the practice as local cable operators did with an earlier interview of deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra with CNN.

Given the series of bombings in Bangkok and its suburb on New Year's Eve, which killed three people and injured some 40 others, many speculated that martial law would be kept in place indefinitely, though civil rights groups and some foreign countries have been urging the Thai military rulers to lift it, as proof to the promised return to democracy in the kingdom after the Sept. 19 coup last year.

The Surayud cabinet last November passed the bill on the partial lifting of marital law, imposed across the country after Sonthi-led military men staged a coup to oust Thaksin administration.

However, the decision had to await the royal decree from the King before being put into effect.