Milan: Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha is expected to be greeted by protests as he makes his first outing on the world stage since seizing power in a military coup in May.
The head of the junta is due in Milan for the ASEM summit of European and Asian leaders to the fury of democracy activists, who have urged the European Union to increase its pressure on the regime.
Several hundred protesters are expected to take part in a number of demonstrations in the northern Italian city, one of which will be addressed by exiled Thai academic and activist Junya Yimprasert.
"There is no sign that Prayut has any intention of allowing Thailand to return to the democratic process," Yimprasert told AFP today.
"The EU should not have given him a visa to travel here and they should not be engaging with him. They should be telling him to restore democracy in Thailand immediately."
Prayut, 60, retired from the army at the end of last month and has said he plans to implement reforms and rid Thailand of corruption before organising elections.
The EU has been sharply critical of the military's latest intervention in Thai politics. The bloc suspended official visits to and from Thailand after the May coup and put a proposed new cooperation agreement with the Southeast Asian state on ice.
Despite the sanctions, EU governments agreed last month that there would be little point in preventing Prayut from attending the ASEM summit.