Thailand's junta leader has defended his government's increasing crackdown on social media dissidents, while promising to restore democracy in the country.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said Friday that Thailand is in a transition toward "a strong and sustainable democracy." He was addressing a security conference in Singapore attended by defense ministers from several Asia-Pacific nations, including U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

Prayuth, who seized power in a military coup in May 2014, has promised to hold elections next year and wants to hold a referendum on the draft of a new constitution on Aug. 7. But his government has banned most public discussion of the charter.