World

Thai PM delays general election, says he needs more time in office

BANGKOK: Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday said he needed a little more time in office to prepare the country for a general election, just days after his deputy said a vote planned for this year could be delayed.

Mr Prayut, installed as prime minister in August 2014 after leading a coup that ousted a civilian government, has delayed the date of a general election multiple times. Most recently, he said an election would take place in November. But last week, Thailand's parliamentary body voted to postpone enforcement of a new election law by 90 days. At the time, the deputy prime minister said Parliament's decision could delay the election until next year.

"Please give me some time to lay the foundation for the country," Mr Prayut said. "The length of this time depends on the law," he said, referring to last week's parliamentary decision.

Mr Prayut is under pressure at home and abroad to return to civilian governance.

On Saturday, activists demanding an election this year gathered at a bridge in Bangkok in a rare show of dissent.

Government critics said the junta is delaying the vote to tighten its grip on power by ensuring that its allies win.

The junta has filed charges against seven pro-democracy activists who led a 100-strong rally. They are accused of "inciting unrest" and violating a junta ban on gatherings of more than five people that has been in place since the coup.

The charges carry penalties of up to seven years in prison.

The group includes a prominent human rights lawyer and several high-profile activists .

Police have summoned the group to report by Feb 2, said a senior officer who requested anonymity. - AFP, REUTERS

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