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Thai Ruler Says He's Prepared To End Martial Law

Thai Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha attending the East Asia summit plenary session at Myanmar International Convention Center in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, in November.

Thai leader Prayuth Chan-ocha, the army general who seized power in a coup last year, says that after 10 months of martial law, he's prepared to end it in favor of an equally draconian constitutional provision.

Prayuth says he's "thought it through" and will replace martial law by invoking a part of the the interim constitution that grants his government the same broad powers to suppress free speech and try civilians in military courts.

"[I] am prepared to use [the clause] to replace martial law. When it will be enforced depends on the situation," he says.

The decision would need to be approved by the country's ailing monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who endorsed the May 22 coup.

As The Bangkok Post points out, the distinction without a difference might be simply an effort to placate the West and international organizations, including the United Nations and European Union, which have pressured Thailand to end martial law.

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch has described the situation in Thailand under Gen. Prayuth an "apparently bottomless pit" where "criticism is systematically prosecuted, political activity is banned, media is censored, and dissidents are tried in military courts."

Shortly after last year's putsch, Prayuth promised new elections by October 2015, but he has since indicated that they would come no sooner than 2016.

More recently, Prayuth threatened at a news conference to execute Thai journalists who "do not tell the truth." Reuters says that "he made the menacing remarks on Wednesday without 'a trace of a smile.'"

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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