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Thailand Lifts Martial Law, But Critics Say Its Replacement Is Worse

Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej has approved a request from the country's junta to lift martial law.

The announcement, which was made on television today, goes into effect immediately. But, as reporter Michael Sullivan is telling our Newscast unit, while the lifting of martial law is good news, critics say what it's being replaced with is worse.

That law is Article 44, which gives Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, the leader of last year's coup, sweeping powers over the Thai government. Michael says: "Human rights groups and other critics say Article 44 is even worse than martial law. Some Thai media outlets are calling it 'The Dictator Law.'"

Prayuth told reporters Tuesday that he would use Article 44 to "constructively" deal with security issues facing the country.

"Don't worry," he said after Tuesday's Cabinet meeting. "If you're not doing anything wrong, there's no need to be afraid."

His comments were reported by the Associated Press.

As NPR's Scott Neuman previously reported, today's move might be an effort to placate the West, which has been critical of the coup last May that ousted a democratically elected government. Soon after the coup, Prayuth promised new elections by October 2015; he has since said that they would come no sooner than next year.

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