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Chuck Hagel urges Thailand to 'return to democracy'

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has called on Thailand to "return to democracy" during an Asia-Pacific security forum after the military took over control of the government in a coup.

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US calls for release of political leaders in Thailand

The US State Department has cancelled engagements with Thailand amid a military coup, it said in a statement.

People hold signs while kneeling during a protest against military rule at Victory Monument in central Bangkok. Credit: REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

"We urge the immediate restoration of civilian rule and release of detained political leaders, a return to democracy through early elections, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms", the department said.

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