Merkel encourages Thai PM to lead his country to democracy

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, and Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, right, shake hands after a joint statement at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel is encouraging Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to lead his country toward democracy.

Merkel said Wednesday before a meeting with Prayuth in Berlin that “Thailand has had very difficult years on the domestic front and … I will encourage the prime minister to continue along the path of Thailand’s return to democratic order as soon as possible.”

Prayuth, who heads the Thai regime that seized power in a 2014 coup, told Merkel “we are advancing toward elections in February 2019 and I have every intention of making the elections a fair and transparent process.”

The Thai government has previously said it would return the country to electoral democracy at earlier dates, but has repeatedly found reasons to postpone the polls.

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