Bangkok: The head of the military junta that took control of Thailand in a coup last week said on Friday that elections may not occur for more than a year because peace and reforms must be achieved first.
Army commander Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha spelled out the junta`s plans in his first speech directly to the public since the May 22 coup.
Prayuth repeated warnings against protests or resistance to the army`s takeover, saying they would slow the process of bringing back "happiness" to the Thai people.
He said it would take at least two to three months to achieve reconciliation in the deeply divided country, and then it would take about a year to write a new constitution and set up an interim government. Only then could elections be held, he said.
"Give us time to solve the problems for you. Then the soldiers will step back to look at Thailand from afar," he said.
Prayuth also explained the junta`s plans for administering the country, emphasising financial stability and transparency.
The army coup overthrew a government that won a landslide election victory three years ago.
In the past week, the junta has moved to silence its critics and warned that it will not tolerate dissent. It has summoned more than 250 people, including members of the government it ousted and other leading political figures, journalists, scholars and activists seen as critical of the regime. Roughly 70 people are still in custody.
The military sealed off a major Bangkok intersection for a second day to prevent a possible protest. The massive show of force involving hundreds of troops during the evening rush hour came in response to small but near-daily demonstrations that have raised tension and concerns the army will crack down on protesters.