thailand election 2017
Thailand Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha (L) speaks with a journalist after attending a seminar on capital market development at the stock exchange in Bangkok, Thailand, January 15, 2016 Reuters

Thailand will hold a general election in 2017, Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Monday.

Prayuth said the election will take place even if a draft Constitution does not pass a referendum this year.

There were fears that the draft constitution was a ploy to delay the election.

"The year 2017, 2017, 2017," an irritated Prayuth told reporters when asked when the election will be held, Reuters reported.

The opposition had lambasted the government for releasing a draft constitution on Friday, which was scheduled to be reviewed by a referendum in July. If it is not passed in July the elections will be delayed further, the critics said.

The new draft constitution was necessitated by the military coup in May 2014, which brought Prayuth to power.

The coup, which ousted the caretaker government of the democratically elected prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, had followed months of violent political turmoil in the country.

Thais were divided into two camps -- the royalist establishment and the populist followers of Yingluck and her brother former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra – creating a political impasse.

At the time of the coup Prayuth had said political reforms were needed before conducting a fresh election.

The prime minister says the draft constitution and the referendum on it are important steps in roadmap to democracy.