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Protesters urge junta to honour election date

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Thai anti-junta activists display placards during a demonstration in Bangkok on Sunday. AFP

Protesters urge junta to honour election date

DOZENS of anti-junta activists gathered in Thailand on Sunday to call for the military government to honour a long-anticipated election set for February 24, as rumours abound of the date being postponed yet again.

The junta – which has ruled Thailand since it deposed the government of Yingluck Shinawatra in a coup in 2014 – has said it will hold the polls on February 24, after several postponements.

But Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn has yet to sign a decree which allows the Election Commission to announce an official date, raising concerns that the polls will be delayed.

Fresh doubts emerged after the Royal Household Bureau announced the king had set his coronation on May 4-6, more than two-and-a-half years after the death of his revered father.

The elaborate three-day ceremony will take weeks of planning, leading some to worry that elections could be pushed back yet again in order to accommodate the preparations for the royal rituals.

Protesters gathered on Sunday at Bangkok’s Victory Monument, wielding signs saying “Delay No More” and portraying junta leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha as a lying Pinnocchio with a long nose.

“It’s ridiculous. Why do they keep postponing and how many more years do they want people to wait?” said Darunee, 60, an academic who declined to provide her family name.

The government has until May 9 to hold elections, according to a bill endorsed by the king in September.

Thailand’s modern history has been rocked by coups and political turmoil, and the era since the putsch that toppled Yingluck’s older brother, billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra, in 2006 has been dubbed the “Lost Decade”, with street protests and instability a feature of political life.

Military leaders have argued that taking control has been necessary to restore stability and stamp out corruption.

But critics say the new military-authored constitution dilutes the power of elected governments and embeds its role in politics and policy for the next 20 years.

Prayut is widely tipped to return as the next premier, though he has been coy about his political aspirations.

“He wants to manage the country for a long time,” protester Nat Marthong, 26, said. “I don’t want the military to choose the prime minister in another coup.”

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