Thai Junta Chief Rules Out Elections for at Least a Year

Thailand’s junta chief on Friday ruled out elections for at least a year to have time for political “reforms”, defending the recent military coup in the face of rising international alarm.

He said a first phase of around three months would focus on “reconciliation” in the ferociously divided nation, with a cabinet and new draft constitution put in place to enact reforms during a second year-long phase. Only after this could elections be held.

Thailand’s military seized power on May 22 — the 19th actual or attempted putsch in its modern history — and set about rounding up scores of political figures, academics and activists.

Authorities have abrogated the constitution, curtailed civil liberties under martial law and imposed a nightly curfew.

Around 300 people have now been held for periods of up to a week, with those released threatened with prosecution if they continue political activism.

On Thursday, the United States reiterated a call for a swift return to democratic rule, with State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki saying Washington would “use every political lever, economic lever where applicable to put the necessary pressure on”.

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