Thai parties cleared to ‘organise’ but still no gatherings allowed
A new election law expected to be passed in December will permit more than five people to gather
Thailand’s leader on Friday relaxed the ban on political activities, paving the way for the general election tentatively set for next February.
The move was announced by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led a military coup in May 2014 and now heads the National Council for Peace and Order, as the government is formally known.
“Political parties will be allowed to conduct important activities ahead of the election,” the military government said in a statement published in the Royal Gazette.
Parties can hold limited activities, such as convening meetings to elect their leaders, recruiting new members, amending party regulations and starting the process of choosing candidates. But actual election campaigning is not allowed yet.
A ban on gatherings or more than five people is still in place.
“Parties can communicate with their members electronically, but not appear to be campaigning,” it said, while warning that authorities could block such communication “if it is illegal or a breach public peace”.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, who is in charge of the government’s legal affairs, earlier said campaigning will be allowed after a law on election of lower house parliamentarians is enacted, which is likely to take be in December.
That law and one on selection of upper house senators both received royal endorsement on Wednesday, with the latter taking effect on Thursday.
The election is supposed to be held within 150 days of the lower-house law being enacted.
Although Prayuth said the election will tentatively be held in February, he did not rule out another postponement, if needed.
The military has been running Thailand since the May 2014 coup, when it removed prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who was later convicted of corruption over a rice-buying scheme.
The election will be held under a new constitution, written by an army-appointed committee, which critics say is designed to prolong the military’s influence over politics for years to come through unelected bodies and other mechanisms. The military says the constitution should eliminate cycles of political instability.