Thai Junta Leader Prayuth Warns Media His Patience Has Limits

Thailand’s junta leader Prayuth Chan-Ocha lashed out at the media, warning reporters that his patience with criticism of his military government has its limits.

“Instead of helping to gather support to solve problems, you attack everything like you do with a normal government,” Prayuth told reporters Wednesday, adding that everything he did was for the benefit of the country. “If someone doesn’t understand, they are not Thais.”

Prayuth, who seized power in a coup last May, was particularly upset by reporting on human trafficking in the nation’s seafood industry. While his comments came on the same day the Associated Press published a story about how slave labor is rife in the Thai fishing industry’s supply chain, Prayuth singled out a reporter for a Thai television station, saying she should have brought her findings on the issue to the government’s attention instead of reporting them.

“If the media play it in a big way, do you know what will happen?” Prayuth said, before answering that it could hurt Thai exports. “If you just keep reporting, all Thai people will feel the damage.”

Thailand remains under martial law and those charged for criticizing the junta -- known as the National Council for Peace and Order -- or disobeying its orders risk trial in military courts and could have their assets frozen. Since the coup, people who the junta determines need what it calls “attitude adjustment” have been temporarily detained on military bases, including some journalists.

‘Don’t Forget’

Prayuth has blamed most of the country’s problems on the weakness of previous governments and the nation’s decade of political unrest. He has called for the public and the press to give his government time to solve issues before a return to elections next year at the earliest.

“From now, I will watch all media and I will use my power with everyone if needed,” Prayuth said Wednesday. “I don’t prohibit criticism. You can criticize, but you need to understand too. The NCPO’s orders are there. Don’t you forget about that.”

When asked what the punishment would be for journalists who run afoul of the junta, Prayuth sarcastically alluded to his absolute power under the nation’s interim constitution.

“Execution, maybe?” he said. “Don’t ask something silly. Just don’t do it, and be careful.”

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