Samak, whose People Power Party is closely allied with ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, said the restrictions were no longer needed.
"At today's (Thursday's) meeting of the National Security Council, we agreed to lift martial law in 179 districts of 31 provinces," he told reporters.
Martial law will remain throughout the three southern provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat, which Muslims live in, and in parts of southern Songkhla province, he said.
The army toppled Thaksin on September 19, 2006, and swiftly imposed martial law throughout the kingdom, provoking the ire of the international community who demanded it be repealed.
The military gradually lifted it, region by region, but when elections were held last December, nearly half of Thailand's 76 provinces remained partially or completely under martial law.
Despite the restrictions, the population gave a damning verdict on military rule, voting back in Thaksin's allies. Thaksin has since returned to Thailand from self-imposed exile.
Samak said that a new security law -- which human rights groups warn gives wide, sweeping and ill-defined powers to the army -- would suffice.
"The reason we are lifting it is because there is another law, the Internal Security Act," he said.
The controversial security act, drafted under the military junta headed by coup leader General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, was passed in December during the last days of the military-appointed parliament.
The bill gives sweeping powers to the powerful Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC), which is now headed by army chief General Anupong Paojinda.
Martial law could take months to actually be lifted, as a new law will have to be passed and granted royal approval.
AgenciesLast Mod: 17 Nisan 2008, 14:06