Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has assured the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff that Thailand is on track toward democracy, but it will be achieved by adopting a "Thailand First" approach.
The prime minister gave the assurance during a meeting with Gen Joseph F Dunford, Jr at Government House on Wednesday where he also tried to explain how Thailand will attain "true democracy".
The meeting between Gen Dunford and the PM as well as the military top brass was part of the marine general's visit to boost Thai-American ties.
"I said we're moving toward democracy. He [Gen Dunford] understood and wished us success," Gen Prayut told reporters after the meeting.
However, the prime minister stressed, it is unnecessary for Thailand to use the same methods as the US in solving problems concerning democracy due to social, economic and cultural differences between the two countries.
"I told him, the US president [Donald Trump] has his 'America First'. I also have a 'Thailand First' as an approach to take care of the country's interests," he said.
He said he told the US general that he wanted more time for legal processes to ensure Thailand will have a strong democracy. "Its timing [the election] will be determined by me and legal procedures," said Gen Prayut.
The prime minister has come under fire over the general election after he made several assurances over poll dates which could not be met.
The last announcement that the election would be held around November this year also looks likely to slip, after lawmakers voted to suspend enforcement of an organic bill on MPs for 90 days, making a more realistic poll date some time in February next year.
With the country about a year away from an election, Gen Prayut's government has launched its Thai Niyom scheme, or Thai-style sustainable development projects. The premier said yesterday it is a "drive to move the country forward."
To turn the programme into action, the government is preparing to send 7,800 teams to meet people nationwide to learn what is needed to solve their problems.
Although some critics suspect this will be an attempt to canvass support during the political transition, Gen Prayut insists the scheme is designed to ensure sustainability because it would cater to people's specific needs.
He said the approach is similar to that taken in China where 2 million state officials conduct surveys to gauge people's problems. Gen Prayut said the government does not just think of spending money, but carefully looks at "where to find it and how to use it".