BANGKOK — A high-ranking military commander says Thailand’s military junta does not plan to lift martial law in northern Thailand – a stronghold of the Redshirt movement – because of ongoing anti-coup activity in the area.
"We have collected and considered all the information, and we realise that there are still dissidents who are campaigning discreetly," said Lt.Gen. Preecha Chan-ocha, chief of the northern-based 3rd Region Army.
Lt.Gen. Preecha’s brother, army chief and Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, imposed nationwide martial law on 20 May, two days beforestaging a coup d’etat. Last week, a high ranking officer said the junta – known as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) – planned to lift martial law in 22 provinces with popular tourist attractions.
Although the northern provinces of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai are some of Thailand's biggest tourist hubs, Lt.Gen. Preecha said that lifting martial law in the region would "provide an opportunity for the dissent movement to campaign openly."
"Therefore, we have decided not to repeal martial law over the provinces that the 3rd Region Army is responsible for," he said.
Northern Thailand is considered the heartland of the Redshirts, a political faction that supported the deposed government and largely opposes the military coup.
Since imposing martial law in May, the NCPO has invoked its special powers to ban public demonstrations, arbitrarily detain hundreds of Redshirt activists and leaders, and try dissidents in military court. Activists in Chiang Rai province were among the first to receive martial court sentences for organising anti-coup demonstrations.
Martial law also grants the military the authority to enforce a curfew, censor the media, and conduct searches without warrants. In addition, it prohibits individuals from claiming compensation for damages that may result from the exercise of these powers.
Although many economists have warned that the imposition of martial law has deterred tourists from visiting Thailand, Lt.Gen. Preecha said the law has not affected tourism or daily life in the north.
"People can still buy things normally, and there has been a steady flow of tourists," Lt.Gen. Preechai said. "There are fewer tourists these days, but it is because it is low season right now."