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Thai junta reiterates elections will be held this year – UPDATE

Thai junta reiterates elections will be held this year – UPDATE

BANGKOK (XFN-ASIA) – The head of Thailand’s junta reiterated that elections will be held to restore democracy by the end of the year, in a wide-ranging televised defense of the military coup six months ago.

‘We will have free and fair elections on schedule,’ General Sonthi Boonyaratglin said in a more than two-hour news conference at the army headquarters, carried live on all Thailand’s television stations.

He did not rule out the possibility that he would keep a political role after the polls.

‘I’m Thai, and I want to protect the national well-being, so I will do anything I can for the good of the country.’

The junta has long promised to hold a referendum on a new constitution followed by general elections before the end of the year.

Efforts to write a new charter have been held up by contentious debate over issues ranging from whether the prime minister should be appointed to whether Buddhism should be declared the official religion.

‘It is a very difficult and slow process to solve problems resulting from the pseudo-democracy and capitalist dictatorship’ of Thaksin (Shinawatra’s) government, Sonthi said, referring to the ousted premier.

‘The constitution will be completed on time and will be approved in a referendum. National elections will eventually be held by the end of this year,’ said Decho Savananont, deputy chief of the Constitutional Drafting Council, during the conference.

Polls show public support for the regime has steadily dropped, amid growing worries about the nation’s political and economic future.

During the briefing, eight agencies — including the constitution drafters, the Election Commission and the attorney general’s office — gave 15-minute rundowns on their work since the coup.

Thaksin’s lawyer, Noppadon Pattama, said the junta’s lengthy briefing only highlighted how little the military government has accomplished since then.

‘The junta should explain what they will do in the next six months instead of reiterating the same old things,’ Noppadon said.

‘A military dictatorship is worse than a capitalist dictatorship.’

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