Thailand will hold a general election next year, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha told U.S. business leaders at a gala dinner in Washington.
Prayuth, who took over the Thai government after leading a military coup that overthrew then-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in May 2014, did not announce a specific date for polls when he addressed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce here on Tuesday night.
“What you want to see is democracy. It will certainly come, I assure you, next year, I will announce the election day,” Prayuth told his audience that included business executives and government officials. “We have been talking for three years, you have seen our strong intention.”
“It’s not easy for Thailand,” he said. “Next year, the election day will be announced, after other related laws are completed, following the road map. When the related laws are completed, we have 150 days, then we can announce [an election date].”
While meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House on Monday, Prayuth assured the U.S. leader that he would set a firm date for elections in 2018.
“Indeed, it was me who initiated the discussion and assured him that Thailand will abide by its roadmap to return to democracy,” Prayuth told Thai journalists following the meeting.
On multiple occasions over the past three years, the junta under Prayuth has postponed elections, which the military government has touted as central to its roadmap for steering Thailand back toward democracy.
Prayuth has rejected criticism that he has been ambiguous about a time-frame for elections.
“I did not mislead anyone or cover anything up,” he told the reporters, according to the Bangkok Post. “I don’t want anyone asking me about it anymore.”
In his Tuesday speech at the chamber, Prayuth challenged his critics.
“I have never done any harm in anyone’s business in Thailand, I have only made it better. My job is to solve all problems and find solutions to conflicts … not wanting to use power, not wanting to violate human rights or set limits to people’s freedom,” he said. “Ninety percent of Thai people have not suffered because of me, but only a few people have because they go against the law.”
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