Thai military leader promises elections in late 2018

Narong Sangnak  European

Narong Sangnak European

Thailand will hold a general election in November 2018, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Tuesday, the most precise date he has given yet for the vote since taking power in a 2014 military coup.

"Around June, we will announce the date for the next election", he said.

"In November 2018, there will be an election".

"Around June, we will announce the date for the next election", he told reporters after a Cabinet meeting at Government House in Bangkok yesterday.

But Prayut then backtracked on the 2018 date, telling a group of Thais in Washington and later the Thai media upon his return he only promised to announce the election date next year, and not actually hold an election.

"He is saying this to release the pressure on him now", political activist Weng Tojirakarn of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) told The Straits Times.

Many UDD activists, also called "red shirts", support the Puea Thai party, which was ousted from government in the coup.

Yingluck was convicted by Thailand's supreme court late last month on charges of negligence in connection with a botched rice buying program and sentenced in absentia to five years in prison.

The coup that overthrew Yingluck Shinawatra capped a decade-long period of political turmoil that began when her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was himself forced out of office in 2006 by the military, which backed Thailand's Bangkok-based royalist-leaning, wealthy elite.

He warned political parties against campaigning and said any breaches could result in the ban on political activities being prolonged.

The announcement comes as the country prepares for the funeral of its late king Bhumibol Adulyadej this month.

Last year, the military pushed through a new constitution that critics said would boost military power and limit the sway of elected officials.

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