EU raps Thailand on coup, cuts official contacts, accord

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 (AFP Photo/Christophe Archambault) (AFP/File)

European Union foreign ministers on Monday condemned the military takeover in Thailand 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." They should also free all political detainees and respect human rights and freedoms, it said, adding that EU member states will review their military ties with Thailand. "Only an early and credible roadmap for a return to constitutional rule and the holding of credible and inclusive elections" would allow for the normalisation of relations, the statement concluded. Earlier this month the head of the Thai military junta, General Prayut Chan-O-Cha, said it would set up an interim government by September to oversee political reforms that will be followed by elections in about a year's time. He gave few details of the process and insisted that Thailand, which has seen many coups in recent decades, needed a strong military to help steady the country after months of violent protests between opposing political camps.