The European Union has called on Thailand's military government to respect freedom of speech and assembly as it prepares to draft a new constitution.

The EU delegation in Thailand said in a statement Thursday that the Southeast Asian nation should allow critics to express their views to achieve true reform and reconciliation. It described the EU as a friend of Thailand that has repeatedly urged that democracy be restored.

The statement was approved by the envoys of all EU nations in Thailand.

Thailand's army overthrew an elected government in May last year after months of turmoil caused by anti-government demonstrators.

Rival political factions have struggled for power, sometimes violently, since a 2006 coup toppled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The current ruling junta curbs dissent through intimidation and detentions.