The chief of the United Nations criticised martial law restrictions directly to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe repeated his call made last month at Milan for the military to restore civilian leadership.
The dual criticisms from UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon and Mr Abe came during a politically bad week for Gen Prayut at the Apec summit in Beijing and the current Asean summit at Nay Pyi Daw.
On Wednesday, French ambassador Thierry Viteau told the Bangkok Post that the European Union had clamped travel restrictions on top officers of the military junta.
That came a day after Gen Prayut revealed that both US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin had “expressed concern” about the continuing military leadership.
Mr Ban expressed concern over the ongoing implementation of martial law in a meeting with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and urged a prompt return “to civilian rule and constitutional order” in Thailand
In a meeting at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in the Myanmar capital of Nay Pyi Taw on Wednesday night, Gen Prayut explained his reasons for seizing power in May’s military coup, saying it was done to ensure public safety because internal conflicts had led to the use of military-grade weapons and violence had been escalating, government spokesman Yongyuth Mayalarp said.
The UN said in a statement that Mr Ban “acknowledged the prime minister’s point that Thailand had returned to stability”, but expressed concern at the continuation of martial law.
Mr Yongyuth quoted Gen Prayut as telling the UN chief that his government intended to restore order, peace and public safety in the country and was using normal administrative regulations and reforming the country and its democracy.
Gen Prayut assured Mr Ban that Thailand has continuously adhered to its international obligations, Mr Yongyuth added.
Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Abe called on Gen Prayut to restore a civilian-led government during the meeting Thursday.
Gen Prayut explained his government’s efforts to return to a civilian-led government and told Mr Abe that Thailand looks forward to further economic cooperation with Japan.
Mr Abe also asked Gen Prayut to completely scrap an import ban on Japanese food products that was imposed for fear of radiation-induced health risks following the 2011 accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.
Gen Prayut was quoted as saying Thailand has already eased restrictions.
The Japanese leader expressed Tokyo’s interest in more infrastructure projects in Thailand such as a high-speed train system, Kyodo News Agency reported.
Mr Viteau, the French envoy, said that official visits to and from Thailand have been suspended since June following a meeting of EU foreign ministers. An exception was made last month to allow Prime Minister Prayut to attend the Asia-Europe summit in Milan.
Mr Viteau said he had told Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Tanasak Patimapragorn that consultations on the new constitution should be as inclusive as possible.
Democratic principles are universal, he said. Thailand should be able to draw inspiration from Western models to set up a new constitution and new institutions.
The French ambassador said cooperation between European embassies in Bangkok and the government carries on as normal despite the travel restrictions on senior military officers of the coup regime.
In Beijing on Tuesday, Gen Prayut told the official Thai news agency that both Mr Obama and Mr Putin had confronted him over the coup.
He said he briefed world leaders on recent political developments, and asked them for time to implement reforms before they make any judgements on his administration.
“I thanked US President Barack Obama for his concern about Thailand and I told him my government would do its best (for national reform),” Gen Prayut said. “I told Russian President Vladimir Putin that order had been restored in Thailand.”
“I told all the leaders that Thailand was relatively peaceful now,” he said.
“The leaders asked about the situation in the country and I replied the political atmosphere was improving but we need more time to implement reforms.”