EARLY ELECTIONS without reform would not help restore proper democracy to Thailand. That was the message related by acting Foreign Minister Sihasak Phuangketkeow when he met his counterpart from the European Union in Belgium this week.
In a bilateral meeting with David O’Sullivan, chief operating officer of the European External Action Service, Sihasak said Thailand had a clear roadmap to restore sustainable democracy and that the EU should support this process of reform.
“The roadmap and its related reform will help strengthen our political economy and will also be of benefit to our partnership with the EU in the long run,” he said.
Sihasak was in Brussels for a ministerial meeting between representatives of Asean and the EU, and spent much of his time briefing representatives of European nations about the situation in Thailand.
The EU, along with the US and other Western countries, strongly criticised the military for its May 22 coup. The EU suspended a number of cooperations with Thailand as well as several visits by high-level officials. It also recommended that member states review military cooperation with Thailand.
The EU said last month that it would not sign a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Thailand and that the negotiation of a free-trade agreement (FTA) would not conclude until an elected government was in place.
Sihasak told O’Sullivan that an elected government would come eventually. Before that, however, Thailand needed time to implement reform to have a strong democracy.
“The time frame of 15 months or so for the reform is not too long if we want to make sure that our system and democracy are sustainable,” he said.
“Thai people are aware of the issues facing our country and we are working on addressing these concerns, so the EU as a partner should support us.”
The EU has the right to voice its concerns about the situation in Thailand, but it should also ensure it is sufficiently informed on specific cases, he said.
“Concerning detention and martial law, the EU should make sure it has correct information about who is under detention, and if there are concerns about human-rights violations, the EU should specify the cases,” he said.
Sihasak discussed the situation in Thailand with many European MPs while in Brussels. They included Werner Langen from Germany, Franck Proust, special rapporteur on the FTA, and Samuel Cantell, head of the economic, trade and regional cooperation delegation. Many of them have experience in engaging with Thailand and have a clear understanding of the current situation in the country, Sihasak said.