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Abhisit criticises, then politics banned

(TNA, Agencies)

Thailand's Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy on Thursday announced a ban on political parties meeting and barred the establishment of new parties.

Just under the wire of the ban, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva slammed the coup. He demanded military leaders call elections in six months - not a year as they said - and accelerate political reforms if they are serious about a swift return to democratic rule.

"We cannot and do not support any kind of extra-constitutional change, but it's done," said Mr Abhisit on Thursday, just before the ban on political party activities.

"The country has to move forward and the best way forward is for the coup leaders to quickly return power to the people and carry out reforms they promised," he said. "They have to prove themselves. I urge them to lift all restrictions as soon as possible," he said of the coup council.

Hours later came the decree that banned all political activities. According to that newest decree by the CDR, as the junta has demanded it be called:

"Existing political parties are not allowed to have meetings or conduct political functions. Establishment or registrations of (new) political parties are put on hold until announced otherwise."

The council said in its statement, read on national television, that the move is necessary to maintain law and order.

It also bans gatherings by five or more people and introduces restrictions on the media.

The media has been asked for "cooperation" to report the news "straghtforwardly and constructively" to restore national unity. The military had already encouraged senior civil servants of the Information Techonology and Communications Ministry to censor the media.

It was the latest announcement after the council imposed martial law on a nationwide basis, and repealed the 1997 Constitution when they effected a bloodless coup d'etat Tuesday night to overthrow premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

"There is no need to write a brand new constitution," said Mr Abhisit, whose Democrats are the country's oldest party.

He and academics from Thammasat University said the 1997 "People's Charter" constitution was basically sound but Thaksin had exploited flaws in its checks and balances.

"They could make changes to the 1997 constitution and if that's the case, there is no reason to take a year," Mr Abhisit said, adding: "Six months is a good time."


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