[JURIST] Thailand's National Legislative Assembly passed a controversial security law Thursday, days before the country's general elections. The Internal Security Bill grants the head of the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) [Wikipedia backgrounder] power to bar public demonstrations, hold detainees without charge, and declare indefinite states of emergency. The original proposal was to appoint the army chief as head of the ISOC, but in response to criticism, the final version names the prime minister as head of ISOC and the army chief as second-in-command.
The current government has maintained that the bill is only intended to preserve internal security in Thailand [JURIST news archive], though some have criticized [Nation report] the bill as an attempt by the interim military-backed government to hold onto its political clout even after elections. Interim Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont [BBC profile] last week refused to withdraw the proposal [JURIST report] despite protests that the parliament, handpicked by the military following the September 2006 bloodless coup [JURIST report] which ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, had no authority to pass additional legislation because of the upcoming general elections. AP has more. Xinhua has additional coverage.