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Thailand's Leader Hints At Putting Off Return To Democracy

Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha signs a guest book Friday during his visit to Shwedagon Pagoda, a landmark in Myanmar, also known as Burma. Khin Maung Win/AP hide caption

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Khin Maung Win/AP

Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha signs a guest book Friday during his visit to Shwedagon Pagoda, a landmark in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

Khin Maung Win/AP

Thai Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, who seized power in a coup nearly five months ago, is hinting that he may need to backtrack on an earlier promise to restore democracy by next year.

In June, little more than a month after the May 22 putsch that overthrew the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Prayuth said elections would be held by late 2015.

In remarks today, however, Thailand's former army chief said the date could be pushed back.

"I outlined a roadmap. The election must come with a new constitution and 11 reform areas," Reuters quotes Prayuth as saying as he boarded a plane in Bangkok to attend an Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Milan. "Everything depends on the road map, so we must see first if the road map can be completed. Elections take time to organize."

On May 20, the army first declared martial law and insisted that it wasn't planning to overthrow the government shortly after Yingluck was removed from office on corruption charges. Two days later, the army, already on the streets, took over.

The move has been condemned by Western nations who have urged Thailand to quickly return to democracy.

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Reuters notes:

"Despite Prayuth hanging up his military uniform — he retired as army chief last month — he has kept a firm grip on power. The military has quashed most dissent, threatening or arresting critics of the coup.

"The reforms are partly aimed at ending the political influence of [Yingluck's brother], former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a former telecoms tycoon who upset the establishment with populist policies that won him the votes of the poor."