Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday dismissed calls for perpetuating his government in power for two more years, saying he would abide by the country's road map for democratic reform.
"I have not yet changed the schedule. Things will be done by next April or May. If we need a referendum [for the draft charter], it will take another three or four months, and a bit more time for the organic laws," he said.
"If you want an early election, you have to pass the new constitution quickly," he told reporters.
All agencies were ordered to conclude their reform tasks by April so that their jobs could be handed over to the next government, he said, noting that the reform agenda needed to be pushed along constantly.
The new constitution must be passed by the National Reform Council first and if a referendum is required, it must also pass that.
"After the plebiscite, there will be an election," he said.
"This is my timeline, and if anyone wants to make changes, they should propose an amendment to the provisional charter," he said.
The prime minister needed to reiterate his timeline and "road map to democracy" after moves by his supporters on the reform council to give the government and junta two more years to carry out their reform plans.
"I didn't seize power just to perpetuate [my] power. I'm bored of using power. I became familiar with using power during my entire military career and four years as Army chief. But it was necessary then since I was the commander," he said.
Pro-junta monk Phra Buddha Issara submitted a petition signed by 50,000 people for Prayut to remain prime minister for two more years to "reform the country and bring about national stability".
The abbot of Ornoi Temple handed the list of 50,000 names to PM's Office Minister ML Panadda Diskul to support an amendment of the provisional charter of 2014 to allow a plebiscite on whether Prayut should extend his term for two years to restore peace and order and crack down on corruption.
The monk said he was not confident that an elected government would accomplish the reform goals, but two more years would be enough to "reform" the country.
He also supported the establishment of a "National Morality Assembly" and a "Civic Assembly", as stipulated in the draft charter, saying these bodies would allow public participation in the checks and balances mechanism.
Phra Buddha Issara led 200 people to submit copies of the petition to Thienchay Kiranandana, chairman of the National Reform Council, and Surachai Liengboonlertchai, first deputy president of the National Legislative Assembly, to push for the same objectives.
Paiboon Nititawan, the member of the National Reform Council who floated the idea of perpetuation of the junta in power, said that as a member of the Constitution Drafting Committee, he would suggest that the CDC consider whether it should add more provisions in regard to the referendum and the date of a general election.
Prayut said he was unaware of any move for a referendum to endorse his remaining in power.
"I don't know. If they want to do that, let them do it. I don't need to give any instructions."
Like Prayut, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan disagreed with Paiboon's proposal, saying the government would proceed with reform in line with the "road map" and the temporary charter.
"I don't know how the government could continue, as the constitution does not say anything about that.
"I don't want to talk about this any more," he said when asked if many opinion polls indicated that people wanted to government to continue running the country.
Maj-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd, a deputy government spokesman, urged reporters to stop asking questions related to the perpetuation of junta power, since the prime minister does not want to deal with the issue any more.
Prayut has made it clear on occasion that he does not want to hold on to power any longer, Sansern said.