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Thailand constitutional referendum to delay polls until August 2016

Bangkok's military government has decided to delay the general elections after a decision to hold a referendum on the constitution. Polls will now take place in August 2016 at the earliest, it says.

Thailand's military government announced on Tuesday it was pushing back general elections, which had been scheduled for January next year, by several months.

It attributed the delay to a decision, also made on Tuesday, by the Thai cabinet to hold a referendum on the constitution and the military's blueprint for democratic government.

"The referendum will take three months to put together. It will likely delay the roadmap," Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told journalists.

The junta, which came to power in a coup last May, was initially due to approve the new constitution and organize elections in early 2016.

The Deputy Prime Minister, Wissanu Krea-ngam explained that a referendum in January would need another several months "to amend various laws," promising that elections would be held "not more than 90 days after."

"At the earliest it will take place around August or in September," he added.

Elections could be delayed once again if political parties refused to agree upon one version of the constitution. Opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva and rights groups warned that the document would take away power from political parties and weaken democracy.

mg/kms (dpa, Reuters)

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