Thai junta lifts curfew throughout country
BANGKOK (AP) -- Thailand's military government has fully lifted a curfew it imposed nationwide after seizing power last month, saying there is no threat of violence.
The measure, effective immediately, was announced Friday night over all domestic television stations.
The curfew had already been reduced to four hours from seven hours, and had been lifted in several resort areas popular with tourists after complaints from the tourism industry over the financial damage it was causing.
The curfew had remained in effect in the capital, Bangkok, because of its political volatility. Until the May 22 coup, it had been the scene of occasional violence triggered by months of anti-government street demonstrations. Political protests and criticism of the coup have been banned by the junta.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
The head of Thailand's military junta said Friday that an interim government would be set up by September, offering the most specific timeline yet on a possible transfer of power after last month's coup.
Army commander Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha has already said it could take more than a year for new elections to be held because peace and reforms must be achieved first.
On Friday, he said that a temporary constitution would be drafted and an interim government installed in the next three months.
"A government will likely be set up in August or early September," Prayuth told a meeting of civil servants. "When ... we have a government, we will move forward. Then the reform council can begin."
A reform council tasked with instituting political reforms in the deeply divided country will include rivals from Thailand's long-running political conflict, he said.
The army seized power May 22 in a bloodless coup, overthrowing a government elected by a majority of voters three years ago. Prayuth has justified the coup as a necessary action to restore order after half a year of anti-government protests and political turmoil that left at least 28 people dead and the government paralyzed.
But since taking power, the army appears to be carrying on the fight of the anti-government protesters by mapping out a similar agenda to redraft the constitution and institute political reforms before elections. It has also gone after politicians from the grass-roots "Red Shirt" movement that had vowed to take action if there was a coup.
On Thursday, a military court extended the detention of prominent activist Sombat Boonngam-anong for an additional 12 days. He has been held without charges since his arrest June 5, but has been informed that under martial law he faces up to 14 years in prison on possible charges of inciting unrest, violating cyber laws and defying the junta's orders.
Sombat had spearheaded an online campaign calling for people to raise a three-finger salute borrowed from "The Hunger Games" to show opposition to the coup.