MEPs react angrily to Thailand refusal to allow former premier to visit Europe

| December 8, 2015 | 0 Comments

Yingluck-Shinawatra-012Two MEPs who invited former Thai premier Yingluck Shinawatra (pictured) to go to Europe to exchange views on the political situation in Thailand have reacted angrily to a decision to refuse her permission to leave the country.

Elmar Brok and Werner Langen, two senior German deputies, branded the move as “deeply disappointing.”

The two centre-right members also reaffirmed their determination to ensure that Shinawatra is able “to travel to Europe freely.”

They were responding to a decision on 1 December by Thailand’s Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political Office Holders to reject the request to Shinawatra to travel to Europe.

In its order, the court said the invitation was “insufficient reason” for her to leave the country at the present time and, as such, the request was turned down.

Shinawatra is facing a legal case to be tried by the Supreme Court, possibly in January, in connection with her government’s rice-pledging scheme.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Brok, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, and Langen, the ASEAN delegation chairman, stressed the “importance” of having an exchange of views with Shinawatra.

They said a meeting at the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs and the delegation for relations with the ASEAN should take place “at the earliest.”

The statement said they were “surprised and deeply disappointed” with the decision of the Thai authorities to “block her appearance in an open debate in the European Parliament.”

Both Brok and Langen called for the Thai military junta, which has run the country since a coup in May 2014, to “take appropriate and urgent action” to enable Shinawatra “to travel to Europe freely.

The statement added, “Both the Foreign Affairs Committee and ASEAN delegation are also ready to continue the meetings with the Thai authorities in Brussels.”

The two members also criticized Thai officials for “trying to give the wrong impression” that they had not sent their invitation to Shinawatra in the name of their respective committees.  The statement was issued in the name of the committees they chair.

They also underlined the “desire of the European Parliament” to visit Thailand in 2016 in order to meet the   Thai Parliament, government representatives, civil society and opposition leaders, including Shinawatra.

The statement has also been published in full on the official website of the Foreign Affairs Committee which signifies the clear backing and support of the AFET committee.

“This pours cold water on the Thai junta’s attempt to cast doubt on the authority and authenticity of the original invitation,” said one EU insider.

The chances of Shinawatra, currently on 30-million-baht bail in the rice-pledging case, taking up the invitation to talk to the Parliament will ultimately depend on the Supreme Court.

In their original 7 October invitation, sent via the Thai ambassador to the EU, Brok and Langen said they wanted an exchange views on the political situation in Thailand, which they considered “worrying” following the coup.

The letter recalled Shinawatra’s successful visit to the European Union in March 2013, when she was prime minister.

The 2014 coup in which Shinawatra’s government was overthrown, was widely condemned by the United States, the European Union and Japan.

In January, the U.S. assistant secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific affairs, Daniel Russel, met Shinawatra but not junta leader-cum-prime minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha – a gesture that profoundly irritated the military government.

Shinawatra is the sister of Thaksin Shinawatra — a former prime minister overthrown in a 2006 coup whose populist policies are still widely supported by the rural population.

Since the coup in May last year, the NCPO permitted Shinawatra to visit France in July, then Japan and China with her son in October. She met her brother, former PM Thaksin, in China.

Sek Wannamethee, the Thai foreign ministry spokesman, conceded that members of the European Parliament had the right to invite whoever they wished for a discussion and UK centre right MEP Charles Tannock is among those who say they would welcome the chance to speak to Shinawatra, saying, “Many of us interested in safeguarding democracy in Thailand would be very interested to meet her and hear what she has to say as a former Prime Minister if she visits us in Brussels or Strasbourg.”

The junta has recently come under increasing fire on various fronts, including alleged rights abuses, plus human trafficking, suppression of civil rights to freedom of expression, movement and assembly as well as breaches of international fishing regulations.

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Category: A Frontpage, EU, Featured Article, Thailand, World

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