EU joins activists in calling for free speech, democracy

EU joins activists in calling for free speech, democracy

With Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha preparing to address the United Nations and his government ready to write a second draft constitution, the European Union on Thursday joined international human-rights activists in calling on the premier to respect basic freedoms and restore democracy.

"At a time when the drafting process of a new constitution is starting, the EU delegation again calls upon the Thai government to respect freedom of speech and assembly," the body said in a short statement available on Facebook. "Only a full and free public debate in which also critical voices can be heard will allow for true reform and reconciliation."

The EU said the start of a new charter-drafting process was the time reaffirm its "strong commitment to the Thai people".

"As a friend and partner of Thailand, the EU has repeatedly called for the democratic process to be restored," the statement read.

The European Union's message was delivered a day after a number of human-rights groups around the world urged member countries of the United Nations to pressure Gen Prayut to end repression of human rights and restore democratic civilian rule. The premier and junta leads will address the UN General Assembly in New York next week.

US-based Human Rights Watch said the General Assembly presented an important opportunity for governments and UN officials to urge Gen Prayut to "act immediately" on a broad range of rights concerns, including the military's sweeping and unchecked powers.

In its statement, the European Union, too, said it "believes that the rule of law and the protection and promotion of human rights are crucial elements for stability and progress".

Echoing the International Federation for Human Rights, the EU delegation called on Gen Prayut's government "to abide by Thailand's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights".

The FIDH added that Thailand also is a signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, but has used "legislation and proclamations inconsistent with the country's obligations" to restrict those rights guaranteed under the international agreements.

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