Prayut promises poll date 'coming soon'

Prayut promises poll date 'coming soon'

Pro-election activists vow the biggest protest yet if the election date is not announced by Friday.
Pro-election activists vow the biggest protest yet if the election date is not announced by Friday.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said Monday that a royal decree calling the election will soon be published in the Royal Gazette.

"It [the royal decree] is coming soon. Please be patient," he said.

The royal decree was originally expected to be published on Jan 2 this year, on the assumption that the general election could take place on Feb 24 as tentatively scheduled.

A highly placed source in the EC said Monday the commission was under immense pressure to set an election date. The most viable options for holding the ballot are now either March 10 or March 24.

Without the royal decree calling for the election, the Election Commission (EC) cannot set the date for the poll, said the source.

A pro-election group known as "People Who Want Elections" plans to hold another rally this Saturday if a royal decree calling for the election does not come out by Thursday.

The group gathered at Thammasat University's Tha Phra Chan campus on Saturday after the royal decree was not published last Friday.

Another group calling itself "Unity Before Election" held a rival demonstration near the Democracy Monument on the same day urging the pro-election group to stop its activities, saying the country has had enough of political strife.

Meanwhile, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) will keep a close watch on political activities to prevent any violence, said their deputy spokeswoman, Col Sirichan Ngathong.

She said army commander, Apirat Kongsompong, in his capacity as NCPO secretary-general, has instructed security officers to make sure both parties and their members toe the line.

According to Col Sirichan, the army chief believes the royal decree announcing the polls will be published soon as required by the constitution.

Gen Wanlop Raksanoh, secretary-general of the National Security Council, has expressed confidence that rallies by both camps will not escalate into violence.

He said both groups are free to hold events to express their political stances. However, they must be violence-free.

"I'd like to ask all parties to voice their opinions without engaging in violence. If there is an incident, it will descend into disorder and that isn't good with elections coming up," he said.

According to Gen Wanlop, intelligence authorities have been gathering information about the political activities planned, not only by the two groups, but also parties themselves, and there is so far no indication that outbreaks of violence are likely.

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