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Thailand Welcomes Easing of Sanctions  12/12 06:31

   BANGKOK (AP) -- Thailand's military junta has welcomed the European Union's 
decision to ease political sanctions imposed against it for overthrowing an 
elected government in 2014.

   The EU's announcement is "good news" that underscores positive developments 
under military rule, Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai said Tuesday.

   The EU's Foreign Affairs Council announced Monday that it was "appropriate 
to pursue a gradual political re-engagement with Thailand" because it had 
improved human rights conditions, adopted a new constitution and set an 
election date for 2018.

   The EU suspended official visits with Thailand in response to the coup.

   It said it would continue to review its relationship with Thailand while 
watching for the lifting of media restrictions and ban on political activities, 
and "the installation of a democratically elected civilian government."

   The EU also urged the junta not to try civilians in military courts on 
charges of insulting the royal family, or lese majeste. Thailand's lese majeste 
law is the harshest in the world, providing punishment of up to 15 years in 
prison per offense.

   The EU also called on the military government to respect its promise to hold 
elections next November. The junta has already postponed elections several 

   Last month, police said they found a stash of weapons they suspect belonged 
to supporters of the government that was ousted in the coup. The junta has 
given the arms discovery as a reason to prolong its ban on political 
activities, raising speculation from critics that it does not want to 
relinquish power.

   "Once again the military government seems to be finding every excuse to try 
to curtail political parties and their ability to start mustering support ahead 
of the planned elections in less than a year from now," Bangkok Post editor 
Umesh Pandey said in a Dec 3 op-ed column about the weapons discovery. 
Officials have denied accusations that the discovery was a set up.

   Don, the foreign minister, told reporters that he now expects there will be 
more communication between Thailand and the EU over the next year, which he 
said could be a good opportunity to explain why elections might have to be 
delayed if any incidents occur.

   "But today we are sticking to the roadmap," Don said.


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