August 27, 2014 6:40 pm JST

Junta-ruled Thailand may not have election until 2016

YUKAKO ONO, Nikkei staff writer

Thai Air Chief Marshal Prajin Juntong talks to reporters in Bangkok on Aug. 27.

BANGKOK -- Thailand might not have its next general election until the beginning of 2016, not October 2015 as initially mapped out by the military government, according to Air Chief Marshal Prajin Juntong, the junta's deputy chief and economic czar.

     Prajin said Wednesday that drawing up a new constitution could take until the end of 2015, and thus the election "might not be later than 2016." He was talking on the sidelines of an investor seminar organized by the Stock Exchange of Thailand.

     The junta had said an election would be held by October 2015. Prajin is the first official of the National Council for Peace and Order, as the junta calls itself, to suggest that balloting could be delayed by several months.

     In a speech to investment fund representatives from in and outside Thailand, Prajin stressed that the NCPO is working to bring back a full-functioning democracy and get the economy back on track.

     "We have had a good start and have produced good results so far," he said. Indeed, gross domestic product in the April-June quarter saw growth of 0.4% on the year, improving from a 0.5% contraction in the first quarter.

     "But much more needs to be done to put Thailand back on the path of stable long-term growth," Prajin said. Toward that, the junta is preparing a $75 billion infrastructure investment plan, including railway projects and airport expansions, as well as energy sector reforms and telecommunication network improvements.

     Junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha was recently appointed prime minister. Prajin is expected to enter Prayuth's new Cabinet, to be set up next month.