‘Roadmap to democratic rule unchanged’

BANGKOK — Thailand’s junta sought yesterday to reassure the country that the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej last week would not upend plans for a return to democratic rule, which include a general election in late 2017.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha also moved to quash uncertainty around the royal succession, saying a new monarch could ascend to the throne after 15 days of mourning.

Doubts arose after the head of the advisory Privy Council was asked to stand in as regent until Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn becomes king. The prime minister said last week the prince’s coronation would take place after the cremation of his father, which will follow a year of mourning.

However, the prince can become king before his official coronation, and Prayuth’s comments appeared to be aimed at cooling speculation the throne might be empty for a protracted period.

King Bhumibol was seen as a stabilising figure in a country often racked by political turmoil.

“On the matter of succession, in accordance with the constitution, citizens in Thailand and abroad should not be worried or concerned,” Prayuth told reporters after yesterday’s cabinet meeting.

“After at least 15 days of mourning, it will be the appropriate time to enact section 23 of the constitution,” he added, referring to clauses relating to the succession.

The junta, which seized power in a 2014 coup, has laid out a “roadmap” for a return to democracy under a constitution endorsed by a referendum in August, with an election that would be held late next year.

There had been speculation the election might be pushed into 2018 because of the one year of mourning for the king.

“Nothing has changed,” Prayuth said. “The policies of this government, the laws — including elections — will be according to the roadmap. Don’t ask me when or how it will occur, the roadmap is the roadmap.”

The government says the constitution will restore stable, clean politics after a decade of turmoil stemming from confrontation between populist political forces and the military-royalist establishment. — Reuters

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