If the draft constitution is voted down in the referendum a new committee would be set up to draft another new one, meaning the general election may have to be delayed beyond 2017, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said on Tuesday.
Gen Prawit said this after being asked to comment on Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's remark that if the draft charter failed to pass the referendum he would have to stay on to make sure there was a new constitution and a general election. The prime minister did not give a timeframe.
The military government has already delayed elections first promised for 2015.
The deputy prime minister said he was not worried by the possibility of the draft charter being voted down.
If the charter prepared by the Constitution Drafting Committee chaired by Meechai Ruchupan failed to pass the Aug 7 referendum, a new committee would be set up to draft another constitution.
"However, the 2014 interim constitution would have to be amended first," Gen Prawit said.
Gen Prawit, who is also defence minister and deputy chairman of the National Council for Peace and Order, said he could not say whether the NCPO's road map would have to be extended, or for how long, because the interim constitution would have to be amended first.
The NCPO would have to meet to decide on this matter because, in this scenario, the draft charters prepared by both Mr Meechai and Bawornsak Uwanno, chairman of a now-defunct CDC, as well as the past constitutions of 1997 and 2007 could be taken together for consideration.
"Since the 1997 and 2007 charters were unsuccessful, we must work out a new one, one which is better," Gen Prawit said.
Asked whether there would be a general election by September 2017, Gen Prawit said: "I don't know. But we will try to follow the road map."
On a suggestion the NCPO's stance had changed, as it could not now guarantee there would be a general election in 2017, Gen Prawit said he was only speaking about a possible delay because it was not known for how long each step, including the amendment of the interim charter, would take.
Moreover, this was the responsibility of the NCPO chairman, he added.
Gen Prawit said he personally believed the draft charter would pass the referendum. Judging from the people's acceptance of soldiers who went out to help them during times of flooding or drought.
"It is not because they are afraid of soldiers. The people love them because they have nothing to do with politics. Moreover, the NCPO's overall performance is satisfactory, particularly in the economic field," he said.
The deputy prime minister said he had assigned security staff to find ways of relaxing the restrictions to allow political parties to voice their opinions.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, who is responsible for legal affairs, had been assigned to work with the Election Commission to organise forums for all political parties to express their opinions.
"This is not a change of stance on the part of the NCPO. We only want to allow ventilation -- to open ways for them speak out," Gen Prawit said.
On a report there could be a symbolic movement against the NCPO on the 2nd anniversary of the May 22, 2014 coup, Gen Prawit said the law would be enforced to ensure order in the country.
The government would try its best to cope with every matter, he added.