Foreign Affairs Committee insist on right to hear from deposed Thai PM

Yingluck Shinawatra in 2013, whilst still prime minister of Thailand, attending the Asia-Pacific 2013 summit. [ITUPictures/Flickr]

The European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs has insisted on its right to hear from the deposed Thai Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra.

In an escalating war of words between Parliament and the military junta which removed Shinawatra in a coup last year, German MEP Elmar Brok demanded “appropriate and urgent” action to allow Shinawatra to travel to Europe to speak with them. Brok is the chair of the Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Shinawatra, overthrown in May 2014 by the military junta, is facing trial on allegations of corruption relating to a rice subsidy scheme.

Last week, the Supreme Court in Thailand refused her permission to travel to Europe to speak about the political situation in her country with MEPs in Brussels or Strasbourg.

Since the coup, Thailand has becoming something of a pariah state within the EU, with a long-planned Free Trade Agreement shelved, and a special debate in the parliament condemning the human rights and labour abuses under the regime.

>>Read: ‘Zero chance’ of Thailand FTA under junta, Commission says

An invitation had initially been made to Shinawatra – brother of a previously deposed prime minister Thaksin – in October.

However, the Thai authorities, under General Prayat Chan-ocha, initially queried whether the invitiation was legitimate – or even authentic.

Last week Brok and Werner Langen, chair of the parliament’s ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) delegation, wrote to the Thai ambassador in Brussels to complain.

On Tuesday, the pair issued a strongly-worded complaint, condemning the decision to block Shinawatra.

They said “[we] are surprised and deeply disappointed with the decision of the Thai authorities to block her appearance in an open debate in the European Parliament.

“Both Chairs call for the government to take appropriate and urgent action to enable Ms Shinawatra to travel to Europe freely.”

The Thai mission to the EU has been contacted by EURACTIV for comment. Previously, a representative of the mission told EURACTIV that the decision of the Supreme Court was judicial and independent of the Thai government, and stressed that Shinawatra was not under house arrest.

Brok and Langen also state that members of the Parliament intend to visit Thailand next year, and meet with Shinawatra, among other civil society leaders and representatives of the government.

In addition the suspended FTA – which EURACTIV exclusively revealed last month would “never” be ratified whilst the junta was in power, Thailand is also facing a difficult decision this month from the Commission on its key fish export sector.

Currently, the sector is under a ‘yellow card’ warning for violations of the “Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported” fishing code, which monitors labour abuses and fish stocks.

An upgrade to a red card would see a ban on imports to the EU. A decision is expected by the end of the year.

Separately, on Wednesday Reuters reported that local Thai police would be investigating the US ambassador to Thailand, Glyn Davies, for possible breaches of the country’s wide-ranging ‘lese-majeste’ laws.

At a speech last month, Davies criticised the military regime for the lengthy jail sentences already handed down under the law, which protects the Thai monarchy from criticism – arguing that it had been used for pursuing political opponents.

However, the ambassador would have diplomatic immunity from any such charges, whilst Reuters also reported that a formal police investigation would be “unlikely.”

  • December 2015: A decision on whether to rescind Thailand's yellow card for IUU fishing, or upgrade it to a red card, which would see a ban on imports from the key Thai tuna sector.
  • 2016: Planned visit of MEPs to Thailand to meet government representatives, civil society leaders, opposition figures and - possibly - Yingluck Shinawatra.

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