Time for Prayuth to set an election date

Thailand’s leader has repeatedly stated since the military seized power in 2014 that he has a road map for the restoration of a democratically elected government. The sentencing in absentia of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra has removed any valid reason for further delay

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 October, 2017, 8:42am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 October, 2017, 8:42am

The main obstacle to Thailand’s junta was popular former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Her sentencing in absentia to five years’ jail for criminal negligence and the lack of feared mass protests by her supporters ends uncertainty for leader Prayuth Chan-ocha. He has repeatedly stated since the military seized power in 2014 that he has a road map for the restoration of a democratically elected government, yet been reluctant to give a timetable and date for elections. There is no longer a valid reason to further delay that process.

An arrest warrant was issued for Yingluck last month after she failed to show up for sentencing at the end of a two-year trial. She fled Thailand and was confirmed by General Prayuth on Thursday to be in Dubai, where her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, whose prime ministership was also cut short by a military coup, lives in exile. The leadership of their Pheu Thai party, which has won every election since 2001 due to the support of rural Thais, is unclear, but there is no other Shinawatra for voters to turn to. The constraints of the military-drafted constitution, approved in a referendum last year and enacted in April, ensures that no matter which party takes power, appointed soldiers, judges and bureaucrats in parliament could overrule its decisions.

Thais are increasingly frustrated about the lack of political progress. Foreign investors are reluctant to embark on new ventures, preventing development and stronger economic growth. The military took control three years and four months ago, but Prayuth has declined to lay out details of his road map or indicate when his rule will end. Lower-ranking officials had previously said elections would be held this year and there is now speculation they will take place in the final months of 2018, but the premier has remained ­tight-lipped.

Prayuth has said he will take all the time needed to ensure that reforms are properly thought out and implemented. But the constitution is clear on the drafting, approval and enactment of laws for elections and political parties; the process has a 19-month time frame. It is time for him to give clarity and an election date.