EU suspends mutual visits to Thailand

EU suspends mutual visits to Thailand
Thailand's Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Luxembourg - The European Union yesterday reduced ties with Thailand by suspending mutual official visits and refusing to sign a partnership and cooperation accord with the country until a democratically elected government is in place.

The measures follow sanctions imposed on military cooperation by the United States and Australia after the coup on May 22.

At their meeting in Luxembourg, EU foreign ministers condemned the military seizure of power and agreed to take the punitive measures to back-up calls for an urgent return to democratic rule.

They expressed "extreme concern" about the situation in the country, urging the military to "restore, as a matter of urgency, the legitimate democratic process and the constitution through credible and inclusive elections".

They also called for restraint from all sides, the respect of human rights, the release of political detainees and an end to censorship.

Further, they urged military authorities to free all political detainees, refrain from any further arrests for political reasons and remove censorship.

Despite military junta chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha's announcement of a roadmap and economic plan, the EU ministers said in their joint statement that "the military has yet to present the credible roadmap for a return to constitutional rule which the situation requires".

So, the EU was "forced to reconsider its engagement" with Thailand.

"Official visits to and from Thailand have been suspended; the EU and its member states will not sign the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Thailand until a democratically elected government is in place," they said.

They called for fully functioning democratic institutions be brought back to ensure the protection and welfare of all citizens. And they said other agreements could be affected and their member states were reviewing military cooperation with Thailand.

"Only an early and credible roadmap for a return to constitutional rule and the holding of credible and inclusive elections will allow for the EU's continued support," the ministers said.

They said the EU would keep its relations with Thailand under review, warning that further measures would be considered if needed.

Meanwhile, a Commerce Ministry source said Thailand may be banned from exporting products to EU countries.

The country has been closely monitored by the EU because of imports of raw fish products from the Philippines and Papua New Guinea, allegedly from illegal unregulated and unreported fishing.

Thailand imports only about four per cent of its total imported fish products from those countries - US$48 million (S$60 million) worth from Philippines and US$52 million from Papua New Guinea.

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