EU voices 'extreme concern' over Thai coup crackdowns

EU voices 'extreme concern' over Thai coup crackdowns

BANGKOK - The European Union has voiced "extreme concern" about political detentions and censorship in Thailand, as the military junta chief met officials and began to set out plans for the country's future.

The EU, a key trade partner of the Southeast Asian nation, said only a clear plan for the country's return to democracy could allow its "continuous support", after the Thai military seized power last week and set about rounding up political figures, academics and activists.

"We are following current developments with extreme concern," the EU foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton said in a statement.

"We urge the military leadership to free all those who have been detained for political reasons in recent days and to remove censorship," she added.

The junta on Thursday added nearly 20 more names to the more than 250 people it has summoned, with scores of people held without charge at secret locations for up to a week.

Authorities have curtailed civil liberties under martial law and imposed a nightly curfew.

A week after seizing power, Thailand's coup leader General Prayut Chan-O-Cha met central and regional officials and laid out three stages that he envisioned for the country before it could be returned to democratic rule, without giving a timeframe.

The country would stay under "special law" during the first phase and then later set up a national assembly and "reform council", according to army spokeswoman Sirichan Ngathong.

Only then would the country start the process of preparing for elections, she said.

Thailand has seen 19 actual or attempted coups since 1932.

On Wednesday the regime freed leaders of the "Red Shirt" movement allied to the ousted government.

It has instructed all those released to refrain from discussing politics under threat of prosecution in a military court.

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