POLITICAL activities will no longer be banned in Thailand by December following four years of strict military rule, ahead of the kingdom’s general election next year.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said made the major announcement on Tuesday, reversing a strict ban imposed since the 2014 military coup that removed the civilian government under then-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
The removal of the ban also comes after the government relaxed some restrictions last month to allow political parties to begin organising ahead of the polls due before May next year.
However, the rules Prayuth eased in October did not include the ban prohibiting the gathering of more than five people or campaigning.
“On the lifting of the ban on political activities, we will consider it sometime at the end of November or early December depending on suitability,” Prayuth said after a cabinet meeting in Chiang Rai, as quoted by Reuters.
Since taking control of the country, the junta government has maintained that the ban on all political activity was needed to uphold peace and order that came after months of street protests between Yingluck supporters and the royalist establishment.
After the ease on some restrictions, Yingluck’s party, the Pheu Thai, on Sunday voted in stalwart Viroj Pao-in as its leader on Sunday. The party also announced a leadership lineup.
The military has also delayed the polls on numerous occasions but a bill approved by the country’s monarch, King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, earlier this year calls for the widely-anticipated election to be held before May 2019.
While political parties are ramping up efforts ahead of the polls, critics say the military-drafted constitution would prolong the influence military influence on the nation’s politics.
Prayuth had expressed his interest in running for the elections prompting speculation that he is vying to become prime minister again.