US Embassy responds to Don’s rebuke over Thanathorn case

PHOTO: The Nation

The Thai Foreign Minister yesterday formerly summoned foreign diplomats yesterday afternoon, one by one, in a diplomatic dressing down about their appearance at a police station last Saturday morning.

The official ministry memo objected to the presence of envoys at the Pathumwan Police Station on Saturday when the Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit reported in to hear charges against him.

But the US Embassy has responded, telling The Nation that attendance at legal prosecutions is standard practice.

“Regardless of the intention, the presence of embassies’ representatives at the police station, with such visibility and with the publicity it generated, was clearly an act of political significance, seen by the Thai public largely as a show of moral support for Mr Thanathorn,” read the aide memoir, a copy of which has been seen by The Nation.

“The Thai government respects the rights of foreign embassies to monitor political developments and observe events of significance for the benefit of their analysis and assessment and for promoting friendly relations. But the incident at the police station while police were carrying out their duty “was clearly not consistent with international practice and obligation.”

Representatives of the UN Human Rights Commissioner, the EU, the United States, the UK, Canada, France, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Finland, Germany and the Netherlands were present at the police station on Saturday when Thanathorn arrived to hear sedition and other criminal charges.

The charges referred to his presence at an anti-junta protest in 2015 and alleged that he had provided a vehicle for a protester to escape detention.

The billionaire-turned-politician accused the junta of harbouring a political motive for prosecuting him after his party did far better than expected in the March 24 election, capturing more than 80 seats in the House of Representatives and soundly beating the Democrat party,

Future Forward then joined the pro-democracy and anti-junta camp that includes the Pheu Thai Party, bidding to attempt to form a coalition against the pro-junta Phalang Pracharat and form government after the election.

The international community and local rights groups have criticised the junta for its plan to try Thanathorn in a military court.

Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai on Tuesday slammed the envoys who showed up on Saturday, saying their presence was diplomatically inappropriate.

“Foreign representatives could get involved in the Thai judicial process only when their own citizens were prosecuted.”

However, deputy National Police chief Srivara Rangsibhramanakul said the diplomats were invited to a briefing after Thanathorn’s interrogation at Pathum Wan Police station had finished.

“They did not join the interrogation session.”

The US Embassy, whose political counsellor was at the police station on Saturday, said having representatives attend such prosecution proceedings is standard diplomatic practice.

US Charge d’Affaires Peter Haymond was among the diplomats who met separately with a senior official at the foreign ministry yesterday to take the aide memoir.

SOURCE: The Nation

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