US Defence Secretary to the junta: Release detainees and hold electionsBy Bangkok Pundit Jun 01, 2014 5:30AM UTC
On Friday, Prayuth outlined a timeline of 2-3 months for achieving national reconciliation and then an installed government for 12 months and then if everything is in order, elections (as blogged about here). Jen Psaki, the Spokesperson for the US State Department was dismissive of this timeline in the Daily Press Briefing on May 30 (Washington time):
QUESTION: The head of the Thai junta came out this morning – or this evening, actually, Thailand – in a national address and sort of laid out a plan for the year ahead. He says there’s not going to be elections for the first year. There’s going to be a first phase of three months of reconciliation. This is in order to set the right tone to hold elections in a year’s time. He said that he recognizes there’s international concern, but he believes this is the right way forward.
Yesterday, you said that there was no reason to delay the elections. Does his plan for trying to bring back what has been a very divided country – does this make sense? Do you welcome this approach?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we know that they have announced a “roadmap” toward democracy, but there are – with scant details included. We continue to urge the military council – so our position has not changed – to set a timeline for early elections and to facilitate an inclusive and transparent electoral process. That remains our view, and that – our view remains that that is the best step forward for the people of Thailand.
QUESTION: And would it be fair to say that you do not regard a year and three – or a year and three months, whatever it is, as a timely or early election, right?
MS. PSAKI: That is fair to say.
BP: Although, she then has trouble trying to differentiate Thailand and Egypt…. Interesting she refers to them as the military council and not the government…
Then yesterday in Singapore, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel also added some comments per AFP:
US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel today urged Thailand’s coup leaders to release detainees and call for elections immediately.
“We urge the Royal Thai Armed Forces to release those who have been detained, end restrictions on free expression, and move immediately to restore power to the people of Thailand, through free and fair elections,” Hagel said at a top Asian security conference in Singapore.
“Until that happens, as US law requires, DoD (Department of Defense) is suspending and reconsidering US military assistance and engagements with Bangkok,” he said at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue.
BP: Although, the US has not put the members of the junta on an immigration blacklist like Australia has, they are certainly stepping up their criticism.
On elections, things will get more interesting soon as local elections were meant to be held throughout June, but have been delayed, albeit for only 30 days, as per ThaiPBS:
EC secretary-general Puchong Nuttrawong said today (Wednesday) that the elections for 180 seats in the local administrative organizations were scheduled between June 1-29 but because of the ban against political gatherings imposed by the military junta, the EC found it fit to have the elections postponed by 30 more days.
He said that the EC would have to consult with the NCPO on the appropriate date of the elections.
BP: Now BP, you may say, it surely will be another 15 months until we have elections as we need reform first, but au contraire, the signs are that we won’t have to wait that long for local elections. Yesterday, the junta issued a new order (51/2557) that gives power to the Appeal Court and Provincial Courts to decide on cases regarding elections and rescinding of rights of candidates for local elections and local administrators (Thai Rath has the full wording in Thai here). If we are going to be waiting 15 months for local elections then there is no need for such an order now although that raises the question, why can we have local elections and not national elections?