Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said this week that the February 24 election day might be changed so that post-election disruption did not affect King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s coronation ceremony, set for May 4 to 6.
The election would be held before the May 9 deadline, he added.
In November, Wissanu said in the event of a February election, the king could open the parliamentary session in early May.
Under the military-drafted constitution, the general election must be held by May 9.
If an election is held, the 500-seat lower house will be the only popularly elected chamber as the upper house Senate will be handpicked by the junta.
Wissanu met members of the Election Commission on Thursday to discuss a date for the poll.
Commission president Ittiporn Boonpracong yesterday (Friday) said: “We acknowledge the details on the ceremony given by the deputy prime minister on January 3 and our office is fully ready to hold the election.
“We will set the date for the election and announce it once the royal decree on the election is published in the Royal Gazette.”
The junta’s Wissanu said: “What concerns us is post-election activity [and] whether announcing the results would affect the ceremony. The senatorial list will also have to be submitted to His Majesty close to that time. The king will also have to preside over the inauguration of the new parliament’s first meeting.”
Wissanu added that the poll should be held on March 24 so results could be announced on May 22, after the monarchy’s rites ended.
Few observers will be convinced by the excuse of holding a royal ceremony more than two months after the scheduled election date.
The Thai media is heavily censored on the topic of the monarchy, meaning the generals can use it as a excuse to delay the poll without facing undue scrutiny.
The world’s strictest lese-majeste laws are regularly used to jail those convicted of insulting the monarchy for up to 15 years, severely limiting public discussion of the controversial king.
Rights activists said Wissanu’s election delay undermined voters’ dignity.
Nuttaa Mahuttana posted on Facebook: “I never felt my dignity undermined so much until I listened to Wissanu explaining why the election needed to be postponed.
“After five years of depriving us of our rights, Wissanu should explain why the election has to be delayed, not how to find water for the ceremony,” said Nuttaa, in reference to the need to acquire sacred water from across the kingdom. “It is an insult to all Thai voters.”
No discussion of King Maha Vajiralongkorn is tolerated. Picture credit: Wikimedia