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Thailand interim PM refuses to withdraw controversial security bill despite protests

[JURIST] Interim Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont [BBC profile] said Thursday that he will not withdraw a proposed Internal Security Bill [Nation report] that would grant the military power to override government operations and suspend rights even after general elections of a civilian-run government scheduled for December 23. The proposal would transform the army chief into the head of the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) [Wikipedia backgrounder] and would grant the ISOC the power to bar public demonstrations, hold detainees without charge for up to 30 days, and carry out warrantless searches. Critics have suggested that the bill is an attempt by the interim military-backed government to hold onto its political clout for the future. The current government maintains its intent is only to preserve internal security in Thailand [JURIST news archive]. The bill, introduced [JURIST report] over the summer, must be approved the National Legislative Assembly before becoming law, and could get full approval as early as next week. AFP has more.

Surayud's refusal to withdraw the Internal Security Bill follows a Wednesday demonstration which shut down parliament [AFP report] after a number of protesters rushed the parliament building. AFP reported that over 1,500 people took part in the protest, though local media estimated there were only a few hundred protesters. The protesters claim that the parliament, handpicked by the military following the September 2006 bloodless coup [JURIST report] which ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, has no authority to pass additional legislation because general elections are scheduled to be held later this month. Members of parliament, however, have said that they will continue to consider bills up until the elections. The Nation has more.

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