* Coup leader says reconciliation, reform to take about a
* Appeals for cooperation, end to protests
* Early Q2 data shows economy stumbling in run-up to coup
* Central bank official says should improve slowly under
(Recasts with comment from coup leader)
By Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Robert Birsel
BANGKOK, May 30 Thailand's junta leader said on
Friday a process of reconciliation between political factions
and reforms would take about one year and only after that would
a general election would be held.
Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who overthrew the
government on Thursday last week, said all sides had to
cooperate and stop protesting for his plan for the restoration
of democracy to succeed.
"Thailand and the Thai people are facing many problems that
require immediate attention and solutions," Prayuth said in a
"Enough time has been wasted on conflict."
Southeast Asia's second-biggest economy has been battered by
political turmoil since late last year, when protesters backed
by the royalist establishment launched a bid to oust the
populist government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
The government clung to power even after a court forced
Yingluck out of office for abuse of power on May 7, but the
military ousted it in a coup on May 22, saying a takeover was
necessary to restore order and prevent further violence.
Prayuth justified his takeover and the tough measures he
introduced afterwards, which have included the detention of
about 250 people, though most have now been freed, censorship of
the media and a ban on gatherings.
"We cannot keep fighting each other just because we think
differently," said Prayuth, sitting at a table with flowers in
front of him and portraits of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen
Sirikit on a wall behind him
"Every side must find a way to cooperate," he added.
Thailand has become polarised between supporters of Yingluck
and her influential brother, deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra,
and the royalist establishment that sees Thaksin and his
populist ways as a threat to the old order.
Thaksin's popularity among poorer voters, especially in the
populous, rural northeast and north, has ensured that he or his
allies have won every election since 2001.
Prayuth's coup followed six months of increasingly violent
protests against Yingluck's government by an
establishment-backed political movement.
Prayuth outlined a three-phase process beginning with
reconciliation which he said would take up to three months. A
temporary constitution would be drawn up and an interim prime
minister and cabinet chosen in a second phase, he said.
"This process will take approximately a year, depending on
the situation," he said. "The third phase will be democratic
"All that I have outlined will not succeed if all sides do
not cease demonstrating politically," he said.
'GIVE US TIME'
A stumbling economy is the priority for the military and
Prayuth promised that the 2015 budget would be in order and
public spending would be transparent.
Figures out earlier on Friday showed private investment and
consumption were stagnant in the run-up to the coup.
Gross domestic product shrank 2.1 percent in the first
quarter of 2014 as the anti-government protests damaged
confidence and scared off tourists.
With only caretaker status after dissolving parliament in
December for a February election that was later annulled,
Yingluck's besieged government had lacked the power to take
policy decisions or approve new spending.
A senior central bank official, Mathee Supapongse, said that
under the military government, which is paying farmers money
owed them under a failed rice-subsidy scheme and eyeing
infrastructure spending, "the overall picture looks better, but
it's not easy to get to the central bank's economic growth
forecast of 2.7 percent".
"It's been half a year now and stimulus measures will not
come all at once, but gradually, so the effect will rather be
felt next year," said Mathee, head of the bank's macroeconomics
He was speaking after the release of central bank data that
showed private investment in April, the first month of the
second quarter, was 4.7 percent lower than in the same month
last year and consumption was down 0.8 percent.
It followed data on Wednesday that showed factory output
fell for the 13th straight month in April, imports plunged and
exports remained weak, underscoring the difficulty the military
government faces in averting recession.
While the United States and other allies have urged a quick
return to democracy, Prayuth appealed for patience.
"All we are asking for is give us time to reform in order to
mend our democratic system, to make it right, just and
responsible," he said.
Despite martial law and the ban on gatherings, small
peaceful protests against the coup have been held on an almost
daily basis in Bangkok.
For a second day on Friday, soldiers mounted a big operation
at the central Victory Monument, where sometimes rowdy crowds
had faced off with soldiers and police earlier in the week,
sealing it off and preventing anyone from gathering.
Activists, spreading word through social media, say they
will hold a big show of opposition at the weekend.
(Additiona reporting by Bangkok bureau; Editing by Alan
Raybould and Stephen Addison)