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NCPO 'strengthening democracy'

Colonel Weerachon Sukhondha-patipak, a spokesman for the ruling military junta, appeared before foreign media at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT) on Wednesday night to explain the rationale behind the coup, delivering the message: "We are not destroying democracy. We are strengthening democracy".

He claimed that the three pillars of democracy, namely the administrative, legislative and judiciary, had broken down in the last seven months. However, he said he had full confidence that General Prayuth Chan-ocha, the Army chief and head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), could repair the damage before the next full election takes place.

He argued that the coup is for the sake of national security since he believed that violent clashes between warring factions were imminent if the military had not taken over.

"Some nations choose to let democracy fail and let the people fix it through civil war, violence and revolution," he said. "The Thai military cannot let that happen in our country."

The seminar entitled "After the coup - What comes next?" was conducted by Colonel Weerachon, who translated the NCPO's announcements into English, and Sek Wannamethee, a spokesman of the Foreign Ministry.

A foreign journalist asked Weerachon to reveal the conditions of those detained by the order of the NCPO.

He replied that they stayed in comfortable accommodation with good food and air-conditioning.

Another foreign correspondent asked whether the junta believed that forbidding some people from expressing their opinions would be effective in stopping people from holding those views.

Weerachon answered that the junta is taking a hard line against such expression now because it would not be productive for national reconciliation. However, later along the reform process, Weerachon said that differing opinions would be welcome to allow everyone to participate in reform.

Nick Nostitz, a German photographer who was allegedly assaulted twice at anti-Pheu Thai government protests, was present at the event and asked whether his attackers would be arrested.

In reply, Weerachon said that the military intervention could not supervise this specific case, but assured Nostitz that the arrest warrant will continue according to the process.

After the session, many journalists and people at the event greeted Weerachon. Some asked to have photos with him. An American television journalist, who asked to have a photo with him, said the spokesman was the "man of the moment". Weerachon had said the NCPO team at the seminar was not skilled in PR, but the journalist disagreed.

He said that although he is neither pro- or anti-coup, he was impressed by some of Weerachon's answers.

He referred specifically to Weerachon's response upon being asked about his opinion on the three-finger sign, inspired by the Hollywood movie The Hunger Games, used by anti-coup protesters. Weerachon simply stated that now is not the time for such signs but time for peace and order.

A business consultant, who asked not to be named, said Weerachon might have answered better if the seminar was conducted in Thai language. For some questions, Weerachon just cut short his answers.


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