Thai minister says envoys breached diplomatic etiquette

In this Saturday, April 6, 2019, photo, Thailand's Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit shakes hands with his supporters as he stands alongside the First Secretary of the French Embassy in Thailand Christophe Carlucci, left, and Counsellor of the German Embassy in Thailand Alexander Nowak, right, at a police station in Bangkok, Thailand. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

BANGKOK — Thailand's foreign minister said Tuesday that he will summon representatives from the embassies of the European Union and the United States to discuss why he believes they breached diplomatic etiquette by observing a Thai politician being charged with sedition by police.

Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai said that foreign countries are barred from closely observing internal procedures "not only by etiquette but also by rules and regulations that the whole world abides by."

His remarks come after several countries sent envoys to observe a police proceeding at a Bangkok police station on Saturday where Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of a popular new political party, was formally charged with sedition and other crimes following a complaint filed by a member of the country's ruling military junta.

Don said Tuesday that the foreign ministry is considering whether to verbally summon the embassy representatives or submit an invitation in writing.

Thailand has been led by a military government since a 2014 coup. The coup leader, Prayuth Chan-ocha, who became junta leader and prime minister, is seeking to also lead the next government after a party that supports him won the most votes in elections that took place March 24.

Thanathorn's Future Forward Party ran a strong third in the elections and positions itself as being deeply opposed to the military, which has made Future Forward its latest target for persecution. Several criminal complaints and protests to election authorities have already been lodged against Thanathorn and his party.

Thanathorn says the accusations against him are politically motivated. He expressed concern Saturday that his case is to be conducted by a military court.

Deputy Police Chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul said Tuesday that Thanathorn's case would be conducted by a military court because the complaint was filed in 2015 when the court was responsible for all criminal cases, but added that Thanathorn can legally request for his case to be transferred to a civilian court. He explained last week that the case had stalled because of several reshuffles among the responsible officers.

Srivara said he was responsible for briefing the foreign envoys at the police station who asked why the case had to be conducted by a military court and why it had stalled. He said the envoys were not part of the formal interrogation and reading of charges but were later informed of the legal proceedings. He said the envoys' involvement did not interfere with police work.

Foreign minister Don appeared to be more critical and said that the envoys had no business being inside the police station.

"There's no principle to gather information in meeting rooms, in discussion rooms, in interrogation rooms and so on," Don said, adding that it would be up to the military court's consideration over whether foreign representatives would be allowed to observe the trial.

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