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Australia cuts ties with Thailand over military coup

Saturday, 31 May 2014 - 11:12am IST | Place: Perth (Australia) | Agency: Reuters

  • thailand-military-coup Thai soldiers and police deploy at Victory Monument, the site of recent anti-coup protests which has been sealed off by security forces to prevent further rallies, on Friday, May 30, 2014 in Bangkok, Thailand. AFP

Australia downgraded its ties with Thailand on Saturday in the wake of this month's military coup in the South East Asian country, imposing a travel ban on the junta leaders and cutting defence cooperation in some of the toughest punitive measures taken by a foreign government.

The United States and other foreign governments have condemned the May 22 coup, calling for a rapid return to democracy.

The Australian government said it had postponed three activities with the Thai military and would prevent the leaders of the coup from travelling to Australia as it continues to have "grave concerns" about the military's actions in Thailand. "In line with our concerns, Australia is reducing our engagement with the Thai military and will lower the level of our interaction with the Thai military leadership," Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Defence Minister David Johnston said in a joint statement.

Coup leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Friday there would be no elections for at least a year, arguing reforms must come first. Reforms could only be implemented if there was peace and stability and would take about a year, he added.

The military seized power on May 22, ousting the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, after meetings with key figures on both sides of Thailand's political divide failed to find a solution to a six-month political deadlock. The military junta then rounded up dozens of political figures, academics and activists.

"The Australian government continues to call on the military to set a pathway for a return to democracy and the rule of law as soon as possible, to refrain from arbitrary detentions, to release those detained for political reasons and to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms."

Thailand and Australia's military ties date back to 1945 and the countries have engaged in a formal defence cooperation programme that involves individual training and maritime, ground and air exercises for the past four decades. The countries also have a free trade agreement, entered into in 2005.

The Australian government said it looked forward to "normalising our relationship as soon as possible," but added that it would continue to "review defence and other bilateral activities".

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