Bangkok: US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel has urged the Thai government to end martial law that was decreed two days before the military coup in May, media reported Tuesday.
"Ending martial law throughout the country and removing restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly are important steps as part of a genuinely inclusive reform process that reflects the broad diversity of views within the country," Russel said, according to The Nation newspaper.
The US envoy met Monday with Foreign Minister Tanasak Patimapragorn and former prime ministers Abhisit Vejjajiva and Yingluck Shinawatra to exchange views on Thai politics after the military took over.
On Friday, the National Legislative Assembly, comprising a handful of people selected by the military government, imposed a five-year political ban on Yingluck owing to a rice-subsidy controversy which led to considerable financial loss to the government between 2011 and 2014.
"I`ll be blunt here: When an elected leader is deposed, impeached by the authorities that implemented the coup, and then targeted with criminal charges while basic democratic processes and institutions are interrupted, the international community is left with the impression that these steps could be politically driven," Russel commented.
The US envoy`s visit to Thailand is part of a tour of Southeast Asia which includes stops in Cambodia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Since 2006, Thailand has been going through a turbulent political crisis, with frequent demonstrations by people either in support of or against Thaksin Shinawatra, the elder brother of Yingluck, which have led to deaths and economic losses.
The exiled Thaksin, who faces a two-year prison term for corruption if he returns to Thailand, enjoys strong support in the rural regions in the northeast, while his detractors mostly represent the middle and upper classes of Bangkok and the influential elite close to the military and the monarchy.