Thailand's junta eases politics ban in step toward polls

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand has taken another step toward holding elections next year by easing some restrictions on political activities to allow parties to conduct basic functions, but they are still barred from campaigning.

A special order issued by the prime minister, which became law Friday following its publication in the Royal Gazette, allows political parties to gather funds to operate and, with the ruling junta's permission, recruit party members and choose new leaders.

The order comes two days after enactment of laws covering the selection of members of Parliament and senators that mandate that a general election be held between February and May next year.

The military banned virtually all formal political party activities after it took over from an elected government in a May 2014 coup.