Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha said he would give civil servants three months to deliver work results as per government policy and those found to be slacking would be "dealt with".
He also said Thailand needed a five-year vision for stability, where people are well-off and have overcome the “democracy” trap. The premier-cum-junta leader also acknowledged the fact that the root cause of political conflicts continued persisting.
The premier made these remarks at a press conference at Government House yesterday to announce his government’s achievements in its first three months.
Prayut said Thailand has been caught in a “democracy trap” since the 1932 revolt, with so many military coups, so now, he said, the focus should be on strengthening people, the country and all sectors.
“Today the country is relatively peaceful, but some think nothing has changed and want an elected government quickly. But while things appear to be orderly, without conflicts or protests, the root cause [of the conflicts] still persist, be it in terms of people or weapons of war. So we have to deal with it in parallel with everything else. As long as these causes are not resolved, the roots of conflict will not end, the judicial process will remain unfinished and we will not be able to solve anything – just like before. I’m just keeping the situation [afloat], but it still poses a danger to democracy in the future,” Prayut said.
As for government officials, Prayut warned that they should carry out their duties without delay, otherwise Thailand risks becoming a failed state. He said the government had spent the past three months solving all sorts of problems, which are numerous, something the past governments failed to resolve. However, he did not clarify exactly what he was referring to.
He said he hopes that his government’s work will become more apparent in three months from now, including the on-going judicial cases.
Prayut warned the media to be fair when criticising the government. He accused a Thai-language newspaper, without naming it, of constantly reprimanding him and threatened to exercise martial law to shut it down.
“I will call on the [media] association to look into the newspaper which writes [to criticise] me every day. I have been putting up with it for a long time; they continue attacking me on all issues and all pages. What’s wrong with them? Are they mad or what? They always criticise, no matter who becomes [the prime minister]. What’s good about that? The proprietor will end up dying in prison. I don’t want to support the paper, but somebody bought it for me [to read]. I don’t really want to read it because it only makes me mad, which affects my behaviour and stature as a leader when I fume. But I don’t know what to do, as I will be criticised tomorrow for saying this. But this time I’m really going to shut down this paper, because it will continue to creep on me if I let it go... What’s the point of martial law then? We have it to ensure peace and [I will use martial law] constructively,” he said.
As for the absolute power he is granted under the interim charter’s Article 44, Prayut said this power should only be used constructively, not to execute anybody.
“I haven’t put anyone in prison or in front of the firing squad,” he said.
Regarding criticism from foreign governments in relation to the May 22 coup and democracy building, Prayut said Thailand was moving forward and those who did not believe this can refer to the provisional charter.
“That’s the answer [I give]. The more answers I provide, the lengthier the issue becomes,” he said.
On the establishment of the Asean Economic Community next year, Prayut said Thai people should think about mutual benefits and realise that it will strengthen Asean.
In his long speech, Prayut referred to himself as a “referee” and a “school principal” who had stepped in to speed things up.
On a personal note, Prayut said his family did not know what he was doing on the day of the coup.
“On May 22, everyone at home cried and I didn’t tell anyone. I told my seniors [who used to be in the Army] later. But I had to do it, otherwise I would be condemned after my retirement for letting things continue this way.”