BANGKOK • Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said yesterday that a general election will take place next year, amid criticism that a draft Constitution unveiled last week would delay the poll.
A draft Constitution released last Friday has been pilloried by all major political parties, raising fears it will be rejected in a July referendum, delaying a return to democracy.
"The year 2017, 2017, 2017," a visibly irritated Mr Prayut told reporters in response to a question about when an election will be held.
Last week, he said Thailand would hold an election in 2017 even if the draft Constitution did not pass the referendum.
Political instability has haunted South-east Asia's second-biggest economy for the past decade and promises on a return to democracy from the military government, which came to power after a 2014 coup, are closely watched.
The government had previously made a new Constitution a prerequisite for a general election, but the Prime Minister said a vote would go ahead in mid-2017, even if it had to be held under an old Constitution.
The junta, known as the National Council for Peace and Order, has curbed dissent and pushed back the timetable for elections to 2017, raising concern about the prospects of a country that was for years hailed as a shining example of a fast-developing Asian economy.
At the heart of the fractious politics is rivalry between the Bangkok-based royalist-military establishment and populist former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his allies, who the establishment sees as a threat.
A decade of tumultuous politics has included two coups, five elections and bouts of civil disobedience and street violence in which scores of people have been killed.