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Thai junta says it will lift ban on politics, paving way for election

BANGKOK: Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said yesterday he would use a special order that gives the military sweeping powers to lift a ban on political activity that has been in place since a 2014 coup, paving the way for a general election next year.

Major political parties had urged the government for months to lift the ban to allow parties to prepare for the vote, and the announcement won some applause from government critics.

Mr Prayuth, who is also head of the junta, has said Thailand will hold an election in November next year - news that was largely welcomed by investors in South-east Asia's second-biggest economy.

"The government will have to use Article 44 to solve this problem (political activity deadlock)," he told reporters, referring to a constitutional clause that grants the military absolute powers.

Mr Prayuth did not say when the order would take effect.

According to the usual procedure, executive orders must be published in the Royal Gazette before they can become law.

Spokesman Thanawut Wichaidit for the red-shirt United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship, which opposes military rule, said the announcement was "the first step for elections and democracy".

"It is definitely a good thing," he said, adding that the junta should also lift a ban on public gatherings. - REUTERS

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