BANGKOK, Thailand – Thailand's National Legislative Assembly voted Thursday to lift a ban on public gatherings of more than five people, the assembly president said.
Meechai Ruchupan announced the decision of the military-appointed assembly. The decision becomes effective when it is published in the Royal Gazette, a pro-forma action expected to take place in coming days.
The ban was issued when the military seized power in a Sep. 19 coup d'etat against elected Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The military later handed over administrative control to a civilian prime minister who is supposed to head an interim government for a year, until a general election can be held.
Meanwhile, eight bombs exploded almost simultaneously at car and motorcycle showrooms in restive southern Thailand on Thursday, wounding nine people, police said.
The blasts were believed to have been carried out by Muslim insurgents, police said.
Attackers posing as customers planted explosives inside cars or near motorcycles at Honda, Nissan, Chevrolet, Mazda, Ford and Isuzu dealerships and at two motorcycle showrooms, Yala police Lt. Col. Sakkarin Bamphensamai said.
He said without elaborating that the blasts bore the trademarks of Muslim separatists.
Police Col. Phumphet Phiphatpetchphoom said that initial reports showed that nine people were wounded.
The attacks came one day after the second visit in a week to the insurgency-wracked region by Thailand's new interim Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont.
Violence has continued despite pledges from Surayud's interim government to make peace in the south a priority and to end the iron-fisted approach of his predecessor, Thaksin Shinawatra, who was toppled by a military coup in September.
Surayud said that Muslims in southern Thailand should be allowed to practice Islamic law — a major shift from previous governments that had been unwilling to make concessions to Islamic culture.
More than 1,800 people have died in sectarian violence in Thailand's three Muslim-majority provinces — Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat — since an Islamic separatist movement flared in January 2004. The majority of Thailand's population is Buddhist.