EU urges return to democracy
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EU urges return to democracy

Envoy blasts curbs on media, free speech

Pirkka Tapiola of Finland, EU Ambassador to Thailand: Possible to hold elections in 2018 (Photo Moldova foreign ministry)
Pirkka Tapiola of Finland, EU Ambassador to Thailand: Possible to hold elections in 2018 (Photo Moldova foreign ministry)

The European Union (EU) has urged the regime to ensure a quick return to democracy and stick to its pledge to hold elections in November.

The EU ambassador's comment was given a day before the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) will consider Thursday whether to approve the proposal of its panel vetting an organic bill on MPs for suspending the enforcement of the bill for 90 days, consequently postponing the planned election to 2019.

"We understand that it is still possible to hold the elections by November 2018 and encourage all stakeholders to respect the previously announced road map for a return to democracy in Thailand, for the benefit of all its people. The EU stands ready to assist Thailand in this endeavour," EU Ambassador to Thailand Pirkka Tapiola said.

Mr Tapiola took up his position as ambassador on Dec 10. He formerly was Finland's deputy head of mission to Thailand, from 1998-2001.

Mr Tapiola said that the EU does understand the difference between the executive and the legislative branches, which are both essential and independent entities in a democracy. That is why the EU strongly encourages a return to democratic elections in Thailand as early as possible, he said.

He was apparently responding to Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai who earlier said the bill's amendment is a matter for the legislative branch while Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is in the executive branch so the government has noting to do with the proposed change.

Among the remaining challenges for the timely preparations of elections were continued restrictions placed on freedom of expression and media, on freedom of assembly and association, and on activities by political parties and civil society organisations, Mr Tapiola said.

"As noted also in the EU Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions of December 2017, we call for a lifting of these restrictions as soon as possible," he said.

Meanwhile, the Pheu Thai Party on Wednesday issued a statement opposing a decision to delay enforcement of an organic bill on MP elections by an NLA committee vetting the bill.

The party's statement called on those in power to stop harming the country and for the regime to return power to the people as promised in the road map for the general election.

The majority of the NLA panel vetting the bill last Friday voted for it to take effect only 90 days after it is passed and published in the Royal Gazette, instead of immediately.

According to the constitution, an election must be held within 150 days of the four election-related laws being promulgated. It was tentatively scheduled by Gen Prayut for this November.

The second and third readings of the organic bill are due to heard today.

Pheu Thai said in the statement that the NLA panel's decision has a hidden political agenda to help the regime cling to power beyond this year.

The delay is deemed as violating the constitution and is a move to "cheat the law", according to a party statement.

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