Prayut promises Trump election date

Prayut promises Trump election date

US president keen on further trade deals

As the Trumps walked Gen Prayut and his wife out of the White House, the prime minister told the president he plans to announce next year a firm election date. (Photo courtesy Government House)
As the Trumps walked Gen Prayut and his wife out of the White House, the prime minister told the president he plans to announce next year a firm election date. (Photo courtesy Government House)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has promised United States President Donald Trump his government will announce an election date next year.

"He [Mr Trump] did not ask about it [the election]. Indeed it was me who initiated the discussion and assured him that Thailand will abide by its roadmap to return to democracy," he told the media after meeting Mr Trump at the White House.

"Next year, we will definitely announce and election date," he said, adding that a general election will take place within 150 days of the four organic laws that will facilitate the election coming into effect.

"President Trump did not put any pressure on us at all during the task," Gen Prayut said about the meeting.

"I did not mislead anyone or cover anything up," he said referring to critics' accusations that the junta was being ambiguous about the election time frame. "I have always reiterated [that the election will take place]. I don't want anyone asking me about it anymore."

Constitution Drafting Committee chairman Meechai Ruchupan said Tuesday that the drafting of the organic bill on choosing senators must be finished by Nov 21, and the organic bill on the election of MPs must be finalised by Nov 28 before they are passed to the National Legislative Assembly for deliberation.

During the meeting in the White House Oval Office on Monday night Thailand time (midday Monday in Washington DC), the US president praised the long and close relationship between the two countries.

"We have a very strong relationship right now, as of this moment, and it's been getting stronger in the last nine months. We've done a lot of things together, and it is tremendous -- it's really very good to have you with us," the White House Press Office quoted the president as saying.

Warm and kind words were exchanged between two leaders. Gen Prayut expressed his condolences over the mass shooting on Sunday night in Las Vegas and recent hurricanes that ravaged southeastern coastal areas of the US, while Mr Trump gave his condolences over the death of Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who he described as a "world renowned figure and monarch who ruled the country for 70 years".

While the Thai prime minister showed his appreciation for the 200-year-old relationship and 184 years of diplomatic ties, and expressed the will to collaborate more on security and defence as well as combating human trafficking, the US president showed more interest in trade and investment.

"I think we're going to try and sell a little bit more to you now, make that a little bit better if that's possible. But we have a big, full period of time scheduled with our staff," Mr Trump said before talking about his trip to Puerto Rico the next day.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha leads the cabinet in a lunch meeting with US President Donald Trump at the White House Tuesday during the premier's official visit to the United States. (Photo courtesy Government House)

Gen Prayut's visit to the US followed Mr Trump's invitation extended on April 30. Mr Trump in early April announced his intention to end trade deficits with 16 countries including Thailand.

Gen Prayut told members of the media he was satisfied with the meeting, and that issues of multi-pronged co-operation including national and regional security cooperation, trade and boosting bi-lateral investment were discussed.

According to Government House spokesmen, Gen Prayut also invited the president's daughter Ivanka Trump to pay a visit to Thailand and see how the country has attempted to tackle the human trafficking of women and children, as this is a major area of interest for her.

In a related development, Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon said yesterday the armed forces already had a military procurement arrangement with the US before the Trump administration came into office.

Arms purchases had been part of the original arrangement with budgets already earmarked.

But the US halted sales after the coup and Thailand had to buy arms from other countries, Gen Prawit said.

He said the purchases could be made now, though the US will only sell arms originally agreed upon such as helicopters.

However, these helicopters are only second-hand so the deal may have to be reconsidered, Gen Prawit said.

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