Thai Cabinet approves curbs on protests

AP News
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Posted: Nov 18, 2014 11:00 AM

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand's military-installed Cabinet on Tuesday approved in principle a bill curbing public gatherings following years of political demonstrations that led to violence and often paralyzed the country's capital.

The bill, proposed by the police department, would require protesters to inform police about rallies at least 24 hours before they are held and ban all such activities at night, deputy government spokesman Maj. Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd said. He said it would also ban all demonstrations at the prime minister's office, other government offices, courts, airports, train stations and bus terminals.

The military declared martial law and staged a coup earlier this year after months of often-violent protests. Under martial law, all political gatherings of five or more people are banned, though enforcement is sporadic.

Thailand has had several massive rallies in the past decade that spread to key government offices, Bangkok's central business district and major airports.

Sansern said the bill provides for the right to peaceful assembly under democratic principles.

Junta leader and interim Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said there may be some changes to the bill to make it fair in matters such as the time and place of rallies. He also suggested that the bill specify the level of power that police will have in case protesters break the law.

"There are protests overseas, too, and that's fine. But they do not hold massive rallies like ours. It's unacceptable. It's impossible. The country is damaged," Prayuth said.

According to the draft bill, those who fail to inform police of rallies will face a maximum jail term of six months and a fine of up to 10,000 baht ($300). Those refusing to leave the protest location when asked by police would face a maximum jail term of one year and a fine of up to 20,000 baht ($600).

The bill must be approved by the government's legal advisory board and then the military-installed National Legislative Assembly before taking effect.