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Politics

Thai king will be crowned after general election, says Prayuth

Ruling military junta left with fewer excuses to postpone the poll next year

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha speaks during a news conference on Dec. 4. (Photo by Hiroshi Kotani)

BANGKOK -- Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said Tuesday that the coronation ceremony of King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun would take place after next year's planned general election to reinstall democracy in Thailand.

Speaking to reporters after his weekly cabinet meeting, Prayuth changed tack on an earlier statement in June, when he said that the coronation would happen before the election.

A fear had been growing that the junta government might use the royal ceremony as an excuse to further delay the long-awaited election. But the prime minister has ruled that out.

Neither Prayuth nor the country's Election Commission have confirmed when the election will be held, but it is increasingly likely to be on Feb. 24. Thailand's lower house election bills are expected to come into effect on Dec 11. The junta must hold an election 150 days from that date, which gives it until May 5.

Meanwhile, as the chair of the 2019 Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, Thailand has set the first of the year's two summit meetings on June 22 and 23.

If it holds an election on Feb. 24, it will take until April for the Election Commission to release the official result, leaving only a month or two for a new ruling coalition and administration to be negotiated. The schedule would become even more tight if the election is pushed back to the latter part of the 150-day window.

"The government has postponed the general election so many times that his word today does not make people believe there will be an election next year," said Sukhum Nualsakul, an independent political analyst. "But the government must work now to have an election on Feb. 24."

On Monday, Prayuth said: "When the king sets the date of the coronation, we need to be sure [that] peace and order prevail." This suggests the possibility that there could be another military intervention if the general election ends in a tangle.

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