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Thailand parliament approves legislation giving military political influence

[JURIST] Thailand's parliament unanimously approved national strategy legislation on Thursday which will provide the military with political influence for at least 20 years. The National Strategy Act will create a committee [Reuters report], led by coup leader Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha [BBC profile], that will collaborate with future cabinet members to revise national strategy plans every five years. The committee will also consist of military leaders, business and industries representatives, and other experts. Critics of the legislation say it is a way for the military to maintain influence over future governments. The military seized power in May 2014 through a coup, which it declared necessary to end the months of civil protests and an unstable government.

Human rights groups worldwide have expressed growing concern over violations in Thailand since the military junta came to power in May 2014. In April Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn [BBC profile] signed a military-backed constitution [JURIST report] into law. In January Thailand's National Reform Steering Committee proposed a new law that Thai officials convicted of corruption involving more than 1 billion baht would be eligible for the death penalty [JURIST report]. The Thailand Parliament unanimously approved [JURIST report] a controversial amendment to its Computer Crime Act of 2007 (CCA) in December, which rights groups fear will give the government unrestricted power to police the web and suppress criticism. In September Amnesty International released a report [JURIST report] detailing the prevalence of torture employed by Thai authorities and claiming the military government has led to a "culture of torture." In May Thai human right lawyer Prawet Prapanukul was charged with allegedly insulting members of the royal family [JURIST report].

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