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Thailand Military Begins Electoral System Overhaul

  • VOA News

FILE - Thailand's Army commander Gen. Prayuth Chan-Ocha, left, arrives at the Royal Thai Army Club in Bangkok, Thailand.

FILE - Thailand's Army commander Gen. Prayuth Chan-Ocha, left, arrives at the Royal Thai Army Club in Bangkok, Thailand.

Thailand's military government said on Monday it had begun an overhaul of the electoral system following an announcement by junta leader General Prayuth Chan-Ocha that polls could take place by late 2015.

Thai authorities also said Monday they have revoked the passports of six people wanted on arrest warrants, including two who founded an anti-coup movement in exile, as the military junta continues to promote obeisance to its rule, according to the Associated Press.

The military took power in a bloodless coup on May 22 following six months of street demonstrations that contributed to the ousting of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

A court had already ordered her to step down after finding her guilty of abuse of power on May 7.

Surasak said political party reform, decentralization of power and “investigations and penalties for those groups that commit electoral fraud” were top on the military's agenda.

“We will talk about obstacles to an election and corruption,” Surasak told reporters ahead of a meeting later on Monday with the Election Commision.

The junta, formally known as the National Council for Peace and Order, has scrapped the constitution and its leader, Prayuth, said on Friday that a new, temporary charter would be ready in July.

The army chief said this would allow an interim cabinet to be installed by September and a reform council would then start work on a longer-term constitution.

He also said in his weekly televised speech that a general election could be held around October 2015, the firmest date he has given until now.

Canceled passports

After taking power by coup, the junta has summoned hundreds of people for discussion, interrogation and detention - usually for a maximum of a week. The six are among a handful who defied the summons.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs canceled the Thai passports of ex-Interior Minister Charupong Reuangsuwan and Jakrapob Penkair, once a government spokesman, who formed an opposition group last week, said the ministry's Permanent Secretary Sihasak Phuangketkeow.

The pair set up the Organization of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy on June 24 the anniversary of the revolution in 1932 that changed Thailand from an absolute monarchy into a constitutional one.

The others whose passports were revoked are two suspects in alleged anti-monarchy defamation cases, an ex-lawmaker from the former ruling party and a Red Shirt political group member. The arrest warrant for Charupong and the former parliamentarian also cites their defiance of the summons to meet with the junta, the AP reported.

The United States and European Union downgraded diplomatic ties with Thailand after the coup. Washington has called for a quick return to civilian government and a move toward “free and fair elections.”

Anti-government protesters

The junta's plans for sweeping electoral reforms echo demands made by the anti-government demonstrators who hounded Yingluck.

They wanted reforms before a new election and disrupted a Feb. 2 vote that was later annulled by a court.

Anti-coup protests have largely dwindled in recent weeks and the few that dare show dissent in public have been promptly detained by police and soldiers.

In its latest public-relations effort, the junta displayed more than 1,000 weapons on Sunday it said were seized from political activists, including Jakrapob.

In a Facebook post, Jakrapob denied any link to the weapons, saying his campaign was one of non-violent civil disobedience.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AP.

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