EU calls on Thai gov't to allow critical voices to be heard

AP News
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Posted: Sep 24, 2015 8:28 AM

BANGKOK (AP) — The European Union urged Thailand's military government on Thursday to respect freedom of speech and assembly as it prepares to draft a new constitution. The statement followed the temporary detention of two politicians and a prominent journalist who had criticized the junta.

"Only a full and free public debate in which also critical voices can be heard will allow for true reform and reconciliation," the EU delegation in Thailand said.

It described the EU as a friend of Thailand that has repeatedly urged that democracy be restored, and called the rule of law and the protection and promotion of human rights "crucial elements for stability and progress."

The statement was approved by the envoys of all EU nations in Thailand.

Thailand's army overthrew an elected government in May last year after months of turmoil caused by anti-government demonstrators.

Rival political factions have struggled for power, sometimes violently, since a 2006 coup toppled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The current ruling junta curbs dissent through intimidation and detentions.

The military earlier this month detained two politicians associated with the former government for what it calls "attitude adjustments." It also detained Pravit Rojanaphruk, a senior journalist for The Nation newspaper who had posted material critical of the junta on his social media accounts. Pravit described his detention as similar to being held prisoner, including being made to wear a blindfold on the way to where he was held.

A draft constitution written by junta appointees was rejected earlier this month by another military-appointed committee, setting up a second attempt at drafting a new charter, with the timeline for elections delayed until mid-2017.