BANGKOK: Thailand’s junta will form an interim government by September to oversee political reforms that will be followed by elections in about one year, the army chief said on Friday.
General Prayut Chan-O-Cha, who led a May 22 coup that deposed an elected government, did not say whether the cabinet would be made up of civilians or military personnel.
“A new government will be set up in August or the beginning of September,” he told officials at a briefing on the 2015 budget.
“Don’t ask me who they are and where they come from,” he added.
The junta chief has not ruled out becoming prime minis- ter himself.
The ruling generals have cur–tailed civil liberties by banning public protests, arresting de–monstrators, censoring media, and temporarily detaining hundreds of critics for questioning.
Prayut has ruled out elections for at least a year to allow time for political reforms—including the drafting of a new constitution—which he says are necessary to end almost a decade of political turmoil and street violence.
He urged Thais to “please be patient with me.”
“I know it’s a honeymoon period now but I hope it lasts a bit longer,” he said.
The commander-in-chief said it was important for Thailand to have a strong military.
“If we don’t have a military we cannot bargain with anyone. If our military is not strong no one listens to us,” he said.
Critics accuse the junta of using political unrest as an excuse for a power grab by a military-backed royalist establishment seeking to curb the political dominance of fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
Thaksin or his affiliated parties have won every election in more than a decade, including in 2011 under his younger sister Yingluck Shinawatra, helped by support among voters in the northern half of the country.
The billionaire tycoon-turned-populist politician was ousted in a 2006 coup and lives in Dubai to avoid jail for a corruption conviction.
Prayut said that he would scrap a loss-making rice price guarantee scheme launched by Yingluck and explore ways to reduce production costs for struggling farmers instead.