Thailand elections 'could be delayed until 2016'

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Media captionThailand's Finance Minister Sommai Phasee said elections could be one and a half years away

Thailand's finance minister has told the BBC that elections to bring an end to military rule might not take place until 2016, a year later than planned.

Sommai Phasee said he had discussed the date with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led the coup which overthrew the elected government in May.

Gen Prayuth has previously hinted that the 2015 date could move.

The Thai military maintains the coup was needed to end months of unrest and political deadlock.

Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon also confirmed the 2016 date to reporters.

"If the constitution is ready, the election will be held by that time," he said in remarks quoted by AFP news agency, when asked for confirmation.

He said there were still "elements opposed to the National Council for Peace and Order", the name of the junta, Reuters reports.

Thailand remains under martial law, and last week Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya said it would remain in place "indefinitely".

The coup was welcomed by many Thais, but there is growing discontent in Thailand and internationally with the military's continued hold on power.

'Depends on roadmap'

Speaking to the BBC's chief business correspondent Linda Yueh, Mr Phasee said that from his conversations with Gen Prayuth "I think it may take, maybe, a year and a half" for elections to be held.

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Image caption Prime Minister Prayuth has said elections depend on political reforms being passed

He said both he and the prime minister wanted to see an end to martial law, but that it was still needed now "as his tool to deal with security".

Earlier this month, Gen Prayuth said a date for elections depended on the completion of a new constitution and a roadmap to political reforms.

"Everything depends on the roadmap, so we must see first if the roadmap can be completed. Elections take time to organise," he added.

Analysis: Linda Yueh, Chief Business Correspondent

Thailand's economy has been stagnant this year. After contracting at the start of the year, the economy has barely grown. Mr Phasee expects GDP growth to be just 1-1.2% this year.

When I asked him when the economy could return to trend growth rates, he pointed to the second quarter of next year when he said that GDP could expand by 4-5%.

The Thai military government will spend to boost the economy, he says, and increase subsidies to farmers as one of a number of short-term stimulus measures.

More from Linda

The Thai military took power on 22 May after months of anti-government protests.

At least 27 people had died during a six-month campaign by protesters to oust elected leader Yingluck Shinawatra.

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Image caption Students flashing the anti-government three-finger salute used in the Hunger Games films are among those arrested in recent weeks

The army has since strengthened its hold, with General Prayuth being named interim prime minister by a legislature hand-picked by the junta, while military figures are in charge of key ministries such as defence, foreign affairs and justice.

Rights groups have accused the military of human rights abuses. Last month, Amnesty International said it had evidence of widespread violations including arbitrary detentions, a clampdown on free speech, allegations of beatings and unfair trials.

In recent weeks a number of peaceful protesters to military rule have been arrested.

Thailand has been embroiled in political turmoil since the military removed Thaksin Shinawatra - brother of ousted leader Yingluck - in a 2006 coup.

You can see Linda Yueh's full interview with Foreign Minister Sommai on Talking Business on BBC World this weekend

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