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Martial law lifted but new orders raise fears the army is tightening its grip

On Wednesday 1st of April Prayut Chan-O-Cha, Thailand’s military Junta lifted martial law in the Kingdom, one day after he was granted permission by royal order from King Bhumibol Adulyadej. An announcement on military television said “As of now there is a royal order to lift martial law across the country”. However martial law has been replaced with new orders, under Section 44 of the interim constitution, that have given rise to fears that the military is tightening its grip on the country.

Special security measures include a ban on political gatherings of more than five people, the new measures will also address “any actions that will destroy peace and order, and national security, also any violations against the NCPO” said the announcement.

Under martial law the army has been able to prosecute those accused of national security and royal defamation offences — Thailand has one of the world’s strictest lese majeste laws — in military courts with no right of appeal.

On Tuesday Prayut said that while military courts would still be used for security offences post the lifting of martial law, convictions could be appealed to higher tribunals.

However the announcement Wednesday did not state whether the right to appeal had now been granted, or whether royal defamation cases would continue to be prosecuted through military courts.

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