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Won’t Leave Office, Whatever the Result of Vote on Draft Constitution: Thai PM

Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha speaks before a weekly cabinet meeting at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, June 21, 2016. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha speaks before a weekly cabinet meeting at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, June 21, 2016. Credit: Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha

Bangkok: Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on June 27, he would not resign if Thais reject a military-backed draft constitution when they vote in a referendum in August.

Prayuth heads the ruling junta, or National Council for Peace and Order, that came to power after a bloodless coup toppled Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s elected government in May 2014 coup.

The military had justified the coup, saying it had acted to restore stability after months of street demonstrations in Bangkok had paralysed Yingluck’s government.

“I won’t resign. I am the one who lays out the rules for this country,” Prayuth told reporters at Bangkok’s Government House, insisting Thais should not compare him to British Prime Minister David Cameron who announced his resignation last week after Britain voted in a referendum to quit the EU.

The junta has said it would carry out political and economic reforms before a general election in 2017 that will start a transition back to democracy.

The August 7 referendum will be the first national vote in Thailand since the coup and should provide a test of the junta’s popularity, experts said.

Groups of all political stripes have denounced the draft constitution as undemocratic, with one major political party urging supporters to vote ‘no’.

The junta has banned criticism of the charter in the run-up to the vote and in May, the Election Commission issued rules barring anyone from campaigning for either side ahead of the referendum.

In the latest crackdown on dissidents, a Thai court jailed seven activists on June 24, for campaigning against the draft charter, which critics say will enshrine military power and emasculate civilian politics.