Thai junta’s chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said Tuesday that he has asked permission from King Bhumibol Adulyadej to end the martial law, which was implemented 10 months ago after a coup that overthrew an elected government. Prayuth, who was army chief at the time, led the May 22, 2014, coup of the Thai administration and his leadership was endorsed by the King in August.
Now, a new executive order -- Article 44 -- is set to replace the martial law.
"We are now waiting for the king to royally approve the disuse of martial law," Prayuth said, according to Reuters, adding: "We have prepared Article 44 and will use it soon."
Article 44, which is also referred as the "dictator law" by Thai media, will allow Prayuth to exercise unrestricted power, Reuters reported. It would also give the country’s military the right to detain people up to seven days without an arrest warrant.
While the martial law was condemned by international leaders, Article 44 worries human rights groups, lawyers, political parties and scholars, who say that Prayuth would be able to control all parts of the Thai government, law and order, according to the Associated Press (AP). He will also not be held accountable for any of his actions.
"Article 44 essentially means Prayuth is the law. He can order the detention of anyone without charge, without having to put the person on trial and for as long as he desires," AP reported, citing Pravit Rojanaphruk, a columnist as saying in The Nation, a local newspaper.
But, Prayuth promised to use the law in a "constructive manner."
"I will not use Article 44 to persecute or threaten anyone. It will be invoked because there is the need. You should not be afraid of Article 44. In fact, martial law is tougher than Article 44, as it controls everything," Prayuth said, according to The Nation, adding: "I will use Article 44 constructively and I won't use it to create more conflict."
Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch said, according to Reuters: "Under Article 44 there is no limit to power and whatever is decided will be considered constitutional and will be difficult to challenge," adding: "It is an ultimate power without accountability. This is something very unique and worrying and it is not going to improve the rights situation and ongoing repression."
A report released in September by Amnesty International said that the military coup in Thailand had created a “climate of fear and a culture of enforced silence” and accused Prayuth of various “human rights violations.” The report said that 665 Thai nationals, including politicians, academics, activists and journalists, had been detained by Prayuth's authorities since the coup on flimsy grounds.