British PM Theresa May calls for 'free elections' in Thailand after meeting Thai PM Prayut

British Prime Minister Theresa May's meeting with Thailand's leader Prayut Chan-o-cha came two days after Thailand carried out its first execution since 2009, prompting outrage from human rights groups.
British Prime Minister Theresa May's meeting with Thailand's leader Prayut Chan-o-cha came two days after Thailand carried out its first execution since 2009, prompting outrage from human rights groups.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP, BERNAMA) - British Prime Minister Theresa May called for "free and open elections" in Thailand as she met with the country's leader Prayut Chan-o-cha in London on Wednesday (June 20).

Mr Prayut, a former army chief who seized power from Thailand's civilian government in a 2014 coup, will next meet French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday as part of a highly-publicised European tour.

"The Prime Minister urged continued progress towards free and open elections in Thailand in line with international standards, including restrictions on political parties being lifted at an early stage," Mrs May's spokesperson said after the meeting.

Mrs May's meeting with Mr Prayut came just two days after Thailand carried out its first execution since 2009, prompting outrage from human rights groups.

During their sit-down, Mr Prayut assured Mrs May that Thailand would hold a general election early next year.

Mr Prayut, now prime minister, is bidding to boost his image as a politician rather than military man as many Thais weary of junta rule ahead of long-delayed elections promised for February.

Mr Prayut has said the general election will take place after the coronation of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, but did not specify the date of the coronation.

According to the Bangkok Post, Mr Prayut was met outside Mrs May's office at 10 Downing Street by two small groups of demonstrators, one welcoming him to Britain and the other calling for an end to military rule.

Before he left for the UK, Mr Prayut said he will not bring up the extradition of former prime ministers Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra during his visit.

Thaksin fled to Britain in 2008 amidst a corruption trial that he claims was politically-motivated.

His sister Yingluck, who was ousted as premier by the 2014 coup, fled Thailand in 2017 ahead of a court verdict that sentenced her to five years prison for mismanaging a rice subsidy scheme during her rule. UK media reported she has been granted a 10-year visa by the British government.