Reuters International

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's military junta on Thursday outlined the 20-year strategy it has said will guide policy long after elections which are now expected next year at the earliest.

The duration of the strategy and the fact that it would be legally binding on future governments have fuelled concerns among critics that the army aims to keep its grip on power whenever a ballot is held and whoever wins it.

Setting out the strategy, deputy government spokesman Weerachon Sukondhapatipak said its pillars would be security, competitiveness, human capital, social equality, the green economy and reforming public administration.

The details of the strategy have yet to be decided and public hearings will also be held before it becomes law.

After seizing power during political turmoil in 2014, in the 19th coup in just over eight decades, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha said the army would leave power within 18 months.

On Tuesday, his cabinet gave approval in principal to bills which set out the framework for drafting the 20-year strategy with committees to work out the strategy itself as well and separate committees for different areas of reform.

Elections had been promised for 2017 after a referendum on a new constitution last year.

But mourning for the death of revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej in October and constitutional changes requested by new King Maha Vajiralongkorn have led to delays which mean elections are not now widely expected before well into 2018.

(Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat and Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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