Thailand’s military-installed prime minister defended a new law that places tight restrictions on public gatherings and warned Thursday it will be strictly enforced.
Human rights groups have voiced concern about the Public Assembly Act, which took effect Thursday, and its stiff penalties. It is the latest restrictive measure to be put in place since the military ousted an elected government in a coup last year, following years of political demonstrations that led to violence and often paralyzed the country’s capital.
Interim Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the former army chief who organized the coup, said the law requires that protesters apply for permission from police for rallies at least 24 hours in advance. It bans all demonstrations within 150 meters (500 feet) of the prime minister’s headquarters known as Government House, Parliament, royal palaces and courthouses unless a specific area has been authorized and designated by authorities.