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US brands Yingluck impeachment ‘politically driven’, calls to lift martial law

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US brands Yingluck impeachment ‘politically driven’, calls to lift martial law | Thaiger


– Thailand news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

US: Impeachment ‘politically driven’, calls to lift martial law
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The United States yesterday branded the former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s impeachment as being “politically driven” and called on the junta to lift martial law as well as push for “inclusive” reform toward democracy.

US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel made the comment during an address at Chulalongkorn University yesterday after meeting with Yingluck, Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva and Foreign Minister Tanasak Patimapragorn to exchange views on Thailand’s political situation.

“The perception of fairness is important,” he said. “I’ll be blunt here: When an elected leader is

imageDaniel Russel, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

deposed, impeached by the authorities that implemented the coup, and then targeted with criminal charges while basic democratic processes and institutions are interrupted, the international community is left with the impression that these steps could be politically driven”.

The junta-installed National Legislative Assembly (NLA) voted overwhelmingly to impeach Ms Yingluck and the anti-graft body pressed criminal charges on her for negligence of corruption in the rice-pledging scheme.

Former foreign minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul, who was with Ms Yingluck in the meeting with Mr Russel, said “we told the US official that Ms Yingluck’s political fate will not be different from that of her brother Thaksin Shinawatra”.

Self-exiled Thaksin was toppled by a coup in 2006 and fled from prosecution over corruption charges.

Mr Russel is the highest-ranking US official to visit Thailand after the May 22 military coup that brought down the Yingluck government. The Thailand stopover is part of his Southeast Asia trip, which includes the Philippines, Malaysia and Cambodia.

Mr Russel also called on the junta to lift martial law, which has been in place since the coup.

“Ending martial law throughout the country and removing restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly are important steps as part of a genuinely inclusive reform process that reflects the broad diversity of views within the country,” he said.

“We are particularly concerned that the political process does not represent all elements of Thai society,” he said. “We are not dictating the political path that Thailand should follow to get back to democracy, or taking sides in Thai politics. But an inclusive process promotes political reconciliation, which in turn, is key to long-term stability.

“The alternative – a narrow process – risks leaving many Thai people feeling excluded from the political system.”

The same message was also conveyed to the government during his meeting yesterday with Thai Foreign Minister Tanasak.

“The two held constructive discussions and reaffirmed continuity in relations in all dimensions,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Sek Wannamethee told reporters.

Mr Tanasak briefed Russel on the latest political developments here and stressed the government’s full commitment to proceed with the road map for reform.

The minister also updated Mr Russel on the progress of measures to suppress human trafficking after the US downgraded Thailand to Tier 3 last year.

The government will submit its report on the human trafficking situation to Washington by the end of this month, Mr Sek said.

Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha explained that Mr Russel did not pay him a courtesy call because he did not approve of how he came to power.

“But we have to separate trade and martial law, as well as economic matters and disagreement [over political issues],” the PM said. “Some countries might disagree with this government, but we still trade with them.”

Meanwhile, in a meeting with Mr Russel, former prime minister Abhisit talked about a referendum on the new charter. From the Democrat Party’s point of view, the junta-sponsored charter would be widely accepted by the people if it goes through the referendum, said deputy party leader Kiat Sittheeamorn, who was also at the meeting.

— Phuket Gazette Editors


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