More than three years after seizing power in a coup, the head of Thailand's military government today promised elections in November next year.
"Around June 2018, we will announce an election date," he said. "And around November, we will hold the elections."
Thailand's military seized power in 2014 and has postponed several deadlines for elections, citing national security concerns and the need to pass new election laws.
The junta has said it needs to reform Thailand's political system to root out money politics, but the reforms are widely seen as an attempt to prevent a comeback by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's political machine.
Thaksin, a populist with strong support in the countryside, was ousted by the military in an earlier 2006 coup but his allies won subsequent elections.
His younger sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was prime minister when the military ousted the government in 2014, and recently fled Thailand to avoid a prison sentence for alleged negligence in overseeing a rice subsidy program.
Prayuth said the junta will consider lifting a ban on political activities but not until after late October, when Thailand holds an elaborate five-day funeral for King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died nearly a year ago.
He warned political parties against campaigning and said any breaches could result in the ban on political activities being prolonged.
"This month of October is a period of mourning for us so please let everything be well-ordered and peaceful for now," Prayuth said.
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