Thai Junta Leader Prayuth Tells Media: 'Don't Overly Oppose Me'

  • Former army chief says government's achievements are ignored
  • Authorities summon two journalists for `attitude adjustment'

Thai military ruler Prayuth Chan-Ocha, who since seizing control of the country has summoned hundreds of people to military camps for what he terms “attitude adjustment,” warned that more journalists seen as too critical may be ordered to report to authorities.

Prayuth, who toppled the elected government in a May 2014 coup, said the media ignore his government’s accomplishments and instead focus solely on issues such as human rights or criticizing him. Prayuth, who in an interim constitution granted himself absolute power through which all his actions are legal, insisted he has never broken the law.

“Today you still write the same kind of news reports” as before the coup, he told reporters Tuesday at Government House in Bangkok. “It can’t be like that.”

“What is reported in the media makes Thailand look like there is no political stability, even though we’re peaceful now,” he said. “It’s O.K. whether you’ll support me or not, but don’t overly oppose me.”

Rights groups say that since the coup the junta has summoned more than 750 politicians, activists, academics and journalists to report to authorities for temporary detention of up to seven days. Detainees have reported being interrogated by military personnel without access to lawyers and being forced to sign documents pledging not to oppose the military junta under threat of military trial. In recent weeks the junta has summoned two high-profile journalists for attitude adjustment, one a columnist at a Bangkok daily newspaper and the other a political cartoonist.

Invited to ‘Chat’

Prayuth on Tuesday defended his junta’s actions.

“I would like to ask you whether there is any media in jail or not,” he said. “Is there anyone? We invite some people to chat. Why can’t I call them in for a chat? I can’t touch the media at all? I can’t invite them for a meeting? If there is misunderstanding, we invite them to chat to create understanding."

Prayuth, who holds the title of prime minister in addition to heading the military junta, is under increasing pressure as Thailand’s economy slows, exports shrink and household debt rises. There is no firm date for a return to elections and civilian rule, with the previous time line delayed last month when the junta’s reform council rejected a proposed draft constitution.

Prayuth has said he had no choice but to stage the coup in order to end more than a decade of sometimes deadly political unrest by rival factions and “return happiness” to a divided population. He has repeatedly called for patience as he and his appointed bodies map out and implement broad reforms across Thai society.

The government’s crackdown on dissent has led to a “shrinking democratic space” in Thailand, according to a United Nations statement released after Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon met Prayuth last month in New York. Ban has called for freedoms of speech and assembly to be upheld.

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