BANGKOK – US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Daniel R. Russel gave a speech at Chulalongkorn University where he discussed the perception of bias that the impeachment proceedings have perpetuated.
“When an elected leader is removed from office, is deposed, and then impeached by authorities, the same authorities that conducted the coup, and then when a political leader is targeted with criminal charges at a time when the basic democratic processes and institutions in the country are interrupted, the international community is going to be left with the impression that these steps could in fact be politically driven,” Russel said.
He stressed that the US would not be taking sides in Thailand’s domestic politics, but urged the junta to repeal martial law and all restrictions on freedom of expression.
“We are concerned about the significant restraints on freedoms since the coup,” he said. “Ending marital law throughout the country and removing restrictions of speech and assembly – these would be important steps as part of genuinely inclusive reform process that reflects the broad diversity of views within the country.”
Russel’s speach comes after he met with former Prime Minster Yingluck Shinawatra on Monday.
According to one of her aides, Yingluck thanked the US representatives for the opportunity to speak about her impeachment, which she has described as a politicised move by the junta-appointed legislators.
She wants is justice and fairness,” an ide who was present for the talks said.
She also told the US diplomat that if the impeachment against her turn out this way, the same standards must be applied to other cases against the previous governments.
She was referring to lawsuits against former Democrat Party politicians who authorised a crackdown on Redshirt protesters in 2010 that left over 90 people dead.
Critics point to the comparative swiftness with which courts have moved to prosecute Yingluck as evidence of a bias against her political faction.
Russel also met with former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, the leader of the opposition Democrat Party who authorised the 2010 crackdown, and the current Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gen. Thanasak Patimaprakorn.
But he refused to discuss the details of these meetings, citing standard diplomatic procedures, but said he felt he had been given a “serious hearing.”