Thailand suffered a military coup in May 2014 – overthrowing the democratically-elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra after months of street protests, just as the second-largest economy in ASEAN was about to sign a Free Trade Agreement with the EU.
Since then, the country’s key fishing and fruit industries have also come under the spotlight from Brussels, whilst human rights activists and lawyers allege a crackdown on any dissent to the junta.
With a referendum planned this year, followed by a promised election in 2017, Thailand’s relationship with the EU, Washington and the wider world now rests on a controversial road back to democracy.
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Late last year, the chairs of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the head of its ASEAN delegation, issued an invitation to deposed Thai prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, to come to Brussels to address MEPs on the state of democracy in her country.
The European Union is watching closely as the military junta currently in power in Bangkok comes under accusation of a multitude of human rights violations.
As the Royal Thai Army plotted its coup against the democratically-elected government in May 2014, Thailand was the second largest economy in ASEAN, and stood on the brink of signing a landmark Free Trade Agreement with the EU.
The draft of a new constitution and democratic elections in 2017 will be the benchmark for the European Union's relations with Thailand, said MEP Werner Langenin an interview with EurActiv.com.
The military junta in Thailand says it understands the concerns raised in Europe over the constitution drafting process currently underway but says the regime intends to stick to its roadmap for a return to democracy, with elections scheduled in 2017. "The government has no desire to stay in power longer than necessary," says Sek Wannamethee, a government spokesperson.
The European Commission’s “Trade for All” strategy aims at increasing the effectiveness and transparency of the EU’s trade policy, as well as promoting the respect of European values and responsible practices among trade partners.