Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has announced fresh elections will be held in November 2018, giving a firm date for the vote for the first time since taking power. He said the exact date of the election will be announced in June next year.
Prayuth, the former army chief, took charge of the country after capturing power through a coup in May 2014, attracting widespread criticism from the West. He defended his move saying it was necessary to bring stability and security to the Southeast Asian nation.
Speaking to reporters in Bangkok on Tuesday, 10 October, Prayuth said: "Around June we will announce the date for the next election. In November we will have an election."
Earlier, the junta had announced election dates on two different occasions but made a U-turn citing security concerns.
Even if elections are held next year, the new government is expected to face severe restrictions from the junta.
Prayuth had originally promised to return power to a civilian government within 18 months after he toppled the then government led by prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
"Prayuth wants to delay the election but he knows that after the king's cremation, there will be pressure for an election. This announcement for the election in November next year will act to reduce that pressure, because if not, there could be chances of protests," Kan Yuenyong of the Siam Intelligence Unit think tank, told Reuters.
Prayuth's announcement comes weeks after he held talks with the US President Donald Trump. Following their meeting, the White House said in a statement: "Thailand's commitment to the roadmap, which, upon completion of relevant organic laws as stipulated by the constitution, will lead to free and fair elections in 2018."