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US warns Thailand on constitution, martial law

[JURIST] US officials have expressed concerns over "restrictions on civil liberties" in Thailand [JURIST news archive] and elements in the 39-article interim constitution [text] "that appear to give the military an ongoing and influential role in decision-making." A US spokesman on Tuesday also warned the military junta, which seized control [JURIST report] of the government last month, that it should make a "quick return" to democracy or further sanctions may be imposed against the country. Elections were originally scheduled for November 2006 but military leaders have said that they will instead be held in October 2007. White House Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino said the White House is concerned [statement text; Washington File report] with the proposed timetable, and added:

We call for clear and unambiguous protection for civil liberties by the interim authorities and the military, and a quick return to democratic elections. Thailand's image in the eyes of the world and US-Thai relations will suffer until Thailand returns to its place as a democratic leader in Asia.
Last week, the US pulled almost $24 million in funding from the Thai government under Section 508 of the Foreign Operations Act which does not allow the US to offer assistance to governments with leaders deposed by military coup or decree.

The US has also urged Thailand to lift martial law, imposed by coup leaders after they took control of the government, within the next 7-10 days, according to a US embassy official in Bangkok speaking on the condition of anonymity. AFP has more.

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