Thai junta may lift martial law in tourist areas

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 03, 2014 6:53 AM

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's military government is considering lifting martial law in some provinces, particularly in those that attract a lot of tourists, a junta spokesman said on Wednesday.

The military declared martial law across the country on May 20, two days before it seized power in a bloodless coup after months of anti-government protests in which more than 30 people were killed.

The United States and European Union both downgraded diplomatic ties following the coup.

Lieutenant General Teerachai Nakwanit, army commander for the central region including the capital, Bangkok, said a decision on easing martial law would be made in coming days.

"We have to look at the impact on tourism and the overall situation in the country. We may lift martial law in some provinces," Teerachai told Reuters.

But he said martial law would likely remain in place in Bangkok.

Thailand is well known for its white sand beaches, Buddhist temples and vibrant cities.

But the months of protests, martial law and the coup against the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra have dented the country's image as an easy-going destination and hurt an industry that accounts for 10 percent of gross domestic product.

In July, tourists arrivals were down 11 percent from a year earlier.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who also heads the junta, formally known as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), will have to approve any decision on martial law, said Teerachai.

(Reporting by Pracha Hariraksapitak; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Robert Birsel)