Thai military rules out early elections

Deputy chief of staff says the army needs a "period of time for all sides to cool down" before polls are held.

    Prayuth ocha removed the government to end months of protests [AFP]
    Prayuth ocha removed the government to end months of protests [AFP]

    Thailand's military rulers held out little hope for early elections, a week after the army seized power, saying conditions had to be right and divisions healed before there could be a return to civilian rule. 

    "It is the council's intention to create the right conditions ... to put Thailand on the path to free and fair elections," Chatchalerm Chalermsukh, the army's deputy chief of staff, said on Thursday in reference to the military government.

    "I want to ask you how long it takes to heal divisions between two groups that have been going on for 10 years?" Chatchalerm said.

    "The two sides do not have to love each other but we want the situation to stay calm and peaceful. We need a period of time for all sides to cool down."

    The army, led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha, removed the government on May 22.

    Polarised

    Thailand has become polarised between supporters of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her influential brother, Thaksin, and the royalist establishment that sees their pro-business, populist ways as a threat to the old order.

    Chatchalerm did not elaborate on what conditions were needed for an election, but said the military wanted to see reconciliation and an end to the political rift that emerged after Thaksin won his first election in 2001.

    The general said the army had been forced to step in reluctantly because of six months of debilitating anti-government protests, organised by a pro-establishment politician, Suthep Thaugsuban.

    "Administrative paralysis has been devastating for Thailand. It put a strain on Thailand's GDP which became negative for 

    Prayuth met a team of advisers for the first time on Thursday to map out a strategy for securing the country and propping up the stumbling economy.

    Among his advisers are two powerful establishment figures hostile towards Thaksin, who remains central to the political turmoil despite being ousted in a 2006 coup and now living in self-exile.

    The two, a former defence minister, Prawit Wongsuwan, and former army chief Anupong Paochinda have close ties to Prayuth. All three are staunch monarchists and helped overthrow Thaksin in 2006.

    A Reuters report in December revealed Prawit and Anupong had secretly backed the anti-government protests that undermined Yingluck's government. She was removed by a court on May 7 for abuse of power and the coup ousted the remaining ministers from her administration.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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