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THAILAND’S military junta eased some restrictions on political parties today, with a royal decree allowing them to fundraise.
With permission from the junta, they may also recruit members and choose new leaderships, but they are still banned from campaigning.
The order comes two days after enactment of laws covering the selection of members of parliament and senators.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan says elections will be held on February 24, almost five years after the army seized power following a court decision to remove elected left-leaning prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra from office.
The government has defended its decision not to remove restrictions on political activity because the country, while “relatively stable,” has not yet “consolidated” its essential reforms, which critics say are designed to prevent any future elected government from challenging the power of the elite.
Thailand’s new constitution, issued by the junta, allows it to appoint all senators apart from six designated seats which are allocated to army and police chiefs.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, previously commander in chief of the army, has indicated that he will “make himself available” for reappointment as prime minister by parliament, though it is less clear if he intends to run for office.
Mr Chan-ocha has gone to great lengths to avoid public criticism of his regime, banning discussion of democracy and even walking out of a press conference with instructions to the journalists present to question a life-size cardboard cutout of himself instead of him. In office he has also written a number of patriotic and romantic songs “as personal gifts to the nation” which are played on state TV and radio in Thailand.
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