BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's military government has no plans to push back a return to democratic rule, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said on Thursday, in comments that came little over a month after the death of revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Thailand is observing a year of mourning and political talk has largely been shelved out of respect for the late monarch, who reigned for 70 years and was seen as a unifying figure in the politically fractious country.
There are fears among government critics that the military, which seized power in a 2014 coup, would delay a general election planned for 2017 until several months after the end of the mourning period.
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Prawit brushed aside those concerns and said a general election will take place next year.
"It is the same as before," Prawit told reporters. "If we can hold an election we will."
The military vowed to restore order and enact political reforms after ousting Prime Minister Yingluk Shinawatra, whose civilian government had been paralyzed by months of turmoil.
The coup was the latest chapter in more than a decade of unrest which has broadly pitted the urban middle-class and elite against the populist governments of Yingluck and her elder brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, that were supported by the rural poor.
On Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said a 2017 election will take place but a new government might not be formed until 2018.
The Puea Thai Party, the party toppled in the 2014 coup, has asked that the junta lift a ban on political activity.
"The country is ready to restore confidence in our foreign partners that Thailand will be under democratic rule again," Amnuay Klangpa, a former Puea Thai Party lawmaker, told Reuters.
(Reporting by Pracha Hariraksapitak; and Cod Satrusayang; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)