The European Union now appears to have a better understanding of the political situation in Thailand, but its member countries are still concerned and want a speedy return to democracy with credible elections.
In a meeting between EU and Asean ministers in Brussels, European delegates did not voice any criticism after the permanent secretary of the Thai Foreign Ministry, Sihasak Phuangketkeow, delivered a briefing on Wednesday.
Catherine Ashton, the high representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and vice president of the European Commission, who co-chaired the meeting with Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, told the meeting that she had a better understanding of the situation in Thailand now.
After listening to Sihasak’s briefing, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond also said he had a better understanding of the situation but still wanted to see Thailand return to democracy soon.
Sihasak, who was at the meeting in his capacity as acting foreign minister, told reporters that the reaction from EU members was positive and indicated guarded support for the junta’s plan to introduce reforms in Thailand.
“We showed mutual respect in the meeting. We listened to their concerns and explained why we need to reform our political system,” he said. “We assured them that we will maintain democratic values while making these reforms.”
NCPO moves acknowledged
The co-chairmen’s statement, which was issued at the end of the meeting on Wednesday, allocated one paragraph to Thailand, saying that the Asean-EU ministerial meeting had taken note of the events in the Kingdom following the May 22 power seizure.
It also took note of the intention of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to return Thailand to “full-fledged democracy under a three-stage road map including the promotion of reconciliation and reform and free and fair elections within a set time frame”.
The statement said that the EU, as a long-standing partner of Thailand and Asean, was concerned about the situation in Thailand, but noted that the NCPO road map underlined the importance of an early return to constitutional democracy and holding elections in accordance with the will of the people.
Now that the reform road map has been offered to the Asean and EU for consideration, Thailand is on a more solid footing to deal with the international community, Sihasak claimed.
“What we ask from the international community is time and space for Thailand to restore a sustainable democracy,” he said.
Sihasak added that he did not expect any more pressure from the international community, notably the EU and other countries in the West, on the political situation in Thailand.