US unimpressed by year-long road map to elections

national June 01, 2014 00:00

By Agence France-Presse

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The United States has dismissed a plan laid out by Thailand's military chief to delay elections for more than a year to allow time for political reforms.

“We know that they have announced a, quote, ‘road map toward democracy’, but with scant details included,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said yesterday.
She insisted that Washington believed the best path forward was “to set a timeline for early elections and to facilitate an inclusive and transparent electoral process”.
In his first televised national address after announcing the takeover 10 days ago, junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said the military regime planned to work towards returning to democracy in around 15 months.
The general said a first phase of around three months would focus on “reconciliation” in the ferociously divided nation.
A Cabinet and new draft constitution would then be put in place to enact reforms during a second year-long phase. 
Only after this could elections be held, he said.
But Psaki said the 15-month timeline was too long, although she would not propose an alternative.
“We don’t want anything to end in chaos, but we think setting a timeline for early elections is something that is not just possible, but is what the appropriate step is,” she insisted.
“There’s no reason that they can’t be held in the short term.”
After months of political upheaval, the Thai military seized power on May 22 and has rounded up scores of political figures, activists and academics. Many of them have since been released. 
Meanwhile, Australia is reducing its interaction with the Thai military, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said yesterday, adding three planned activities had been postponed due to the coup.
“The Australian government continues to have grave concerns about the actions of the military in Thailand,” Bishop said in a statement with Defence Minister David Johnston.
“In line with our concerns, Australia is reducing our engagement with the Thai military and will lower the level of our interaction with the Thai military leadership.” 
The ministers said Australia had postponed three activities planned for coming weeks in Thailand – a military operations law training course for Thai officers, and two reconnaissance visits; including one for a counter-terrorism training exercise.
“We will continue to review defence and other bilateral activities,” they said.
Canberra has also put in place a mechanism to prevent the leaders of the coup from travelling to Australia.
Australia has called on the Thai military to establish a plan to return to democracy and the rule of law as soon as possible, to refrain from arbitrary detentions and release those detained for political reasons.
Following the coup, the United States cancelled an ongoing military exercise with Thailand and planned visits by officials.
Key points
The following are key points made by National Council for Peace and Order chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha in his public address on TV on Friday night.
- An interim government will be formed before the next fiscal year starts on October 1, and a new election can be held one year after that;
- A three-step road map will be implemented, starting with national reconciliation, followed by reform and election;
- When the situation returns to normal, martial law and curfew will be lifted;
- The country’s energy policy will be reviewed;
- NCPO will comply with regulations governing budget spending and listen to permanent officials and the private sector before approving projects and budget spending

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