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New Thailand PM avoids setting martial law expiry date

[JURIST] Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont [official website; BBC profile] has declined to set a timeline for lifting martial law in Thailand, but will return the country to normalcy "as soon as possible," a government spokesperson said Monday. The spokesperson said the decision would be made in consultation with the new cabinet, which was installed [BBC report] Monday after gaining the approval of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The Council for Democratic Reform, now the Council for National Security [Bangkok Post backgrounder], imposed martial law nationwide on the night of Sept 19, immediately after the Thai Army seized power [JURIST report] in a coup. Early in October, King Adulyadej approved a new 39-article interim constitution [text; JURIST report] that provides for a civilian government but, as anticipated [JURIST report], preserves the military's say in policy through the Council for National Security, which, among other things, has the power to dismiss the administration. Human rights groups and the US government [JURIST reports] have urged Thailand to revoke martial law as soon as possible. The Bangkok Post has local coverage. Xinhua has additional coverage.

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