Updated: 06/23/2014 23:52 | By Agence France-Presse

Thai junta 'disappointed' after EU cuts official contacts

Thailand's junta said Monday it was "disappointed" by the European Union's decision to halt all official visits to the kingdom and suspend the signing of a cooperation accord after last month's coup.

Thai junta 'disappointed' after EU cuts official contacts

File photo shows Thai soldiers standing behind their shields after they sealed off an elevated train station leading to a shopping mall and broke up an anti-coup protest in downtown Bangkok on June 1, 2014 - by Christophe Archambault

The junta, formally known as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), has curtailed civil liberties by banning public protests, arresting demonstrators, censoring media and temporarily detaining hundreds of critics for questioning since it seized power on May 22.

"We are not angry, but we are disappointed and regret the EU decision," junta spokesman Werachon Sukondhapatipak told AFP. 

He added that Europeans do not understand the situation in Thailand or the military "justification of taking control of the country's administration".

Army chief Prayut Chan-o-Cha has said he was forced to seize power after nearly seven months of anti-government protests which saw 28 people killed and hundreds of others wounded.

European Union foreign ministers on Monday condemned the military takeover and agreed punitive measures to back up calls for an urgent return to democratic rule.

The ministers halted all official visits to Thailand and suspended the signing of a partnership and cooperation accord with Bangkok, a statement said.

Expressing "extreme concern" at developments, ministers said the military should restore "as a matter of urgency, the legitimate democratic process and the constitution, through credible and inclusive elections".

Opponents of the military regime accuse the junta of using the unrest in Thailand as a pretext for a long-planned power grab by the military-backed royalist establishment which loathes Thaksin Shinawatra, a billionaire former premier who sits at the heart of Thailand's political schism. 

The tycoon-turned-populist politician was ousted as prime minister in a 2006 coup and lives in self-exile to avoid jail for a corruption conviction.

Thaksin or his allies have won every election in more than a decade, including in 2011 under his younger sister Yingluck Shinawatra, helped by strong support among voters in the northern half of the country.

Yingluck was ousted as premier shortly before the latest coup in a controversial court ruling.

The junta has ruled out elections for at least a year to pass new political reforms -- including the drafting of a new constitution -- which it says is necessary to end years of political turmoil.

"We're just asking for time. We're asking our international friends to be a little more patient," said Werachon, insisting that Thailand had not given up on democracy.

"We will return to democracy, elections will be held in the future," he stressed. "We urge the EU to reconsider the situation."

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