BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai Prime Minister and coup leader Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Wednesday that a roadmap to return the country to democracy was on schedule, confirming plans for a general election in early 2016.
Prayuth’s comments came amid renewed tensions in Thailand, following twin bomb blasts in Bangkok on Sunday and last month’s decision to ban former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from politics.
“If everything goes according to our plan at the start of next year there will be a new general election,” Prayuth told reporters in Bangkok, following a high-level meeting with cabinet members, the military and the country’s legislature.
“As far as I have heard from all sides, the roadmap we have planned is moving forward as scheduled.”
Prayuth did not give an exact date, but deputies have previously stated an election would be held by February 2016 at the earliest.
Thailand has been divided for nearly a decade between rival camps: one led by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who like his sister Yingluck was deposed in a coup, and the other by the Bangkok-based royalist-military establishment.
Yingluck, Thailand’s first female prime minister, came to power in a landslide election in 2011, backed by voters mostly in the north and northeast of the country.
She was removed from office in May, after a court found her guilty of abuse of power, days before the military staged a coup after months of street demonstrations in Bangkok aimed at ousting her government.
A month after taking power, the junta said elections would be held around October 2015. The military government later pushed the date back citing security concerns and time constraints in drafting a new constitution.
Dismayed by the coup, some Western countries downgraded ties with Thailand. The United States, a long-time ally of Thailand, froze $4.7 million of security-related assistance, cancelled high-level engagements and has called the poll delay to 2016 unwise.
In the first incident of its kind to shake the Thai capital after months of relative peace following the coup, two small bombs detonated outside a luxury shopping mall in Bangkok on Sunday.
Arrest warrants have been issued for two suspects wanted in connection with the explosions that injured two people.
Additional reporting by Pracha Hariraksapitak; Editing by Jeremy Laurence