PM rebukes ‘haters’ with vow to stay in power

national June 02, 2016 01:00


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Attitude adjustment session to be conducted more as talk to seek cooperation and understanding.

PRIME MINISTER Prayut Chan-o-cha swatted away critics yesterday, vowing to stay in power “despite how much you hate me”, as tensions simmer before a referendum which the military says will pave the way for elections. 
Prayut seized power two years ago when he was Army chief, promising to heal a bitter decade-long political divide. But his regime has curbed free speech, outlawed political activities and penned a new charter designed to entrench the military’s role in government. 
“I won’t go anywhere as long as the country is not at peace and in order. I won’t leave, despite how much you hate me,” Prayut, who is renowned for his often irate outbursts, said in remarks to a forum in Bangkok. 
He also defended the sweeping powers granted to him as junta chief, saying “there are still some politicians expressing their opinions”. 
The junta has promised elections will go ahead in 2017, but has not clarified what will happen if the charter is rejected in the referendum, raising fears the timetable will slip once again. 
Prayut’s speech came after the junta appears to be loosening its grip by ending travel restrictions on many former politicians and promising to move its “attitude adjustment” sessions – a common punishment for critics – from military camps to government buildings and police stations. 
A source quoted Army chief General Thirachai Nakwanich as saying yesterday that Prayut wants the attitude adjustment sessions to be described as “talks to seek cooperation and understanding”.
The source added that this change came after there were a few incidents of misunderstanding between concerned parties and the public. 
Citing the land dispute in Phuket between locals and the landowner, he pointed out that though the land was bought legally, some long-time residents refused to leave, which caused conflicts. 
The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) summoned both parties for talks at the military camp, but this move was widely criticised because even the victims were summoned for a session with the military. 
“Actually we only wanted the dispute to be settled,” the source said. 
The source also added that the NCPO would consider the option of soldiers wearing plainclothes when holding such talks with the summoned parties. 
The NCPO held its first “attitude adjustment” session outside a military camp yesterday, when it held talks with environmentalist Srisuwan Janya at the Lak Si district office in Bangkok. 
President of the Stop Global Warming Association, Srisuwan had posted a message on his Facebook page marking his lucky encounter with the military. In response, some soldiers stopped by at his house and he was sent a summons from the commander of the Infantry Regiment 2, 11th Infantry Guard Department, for an attitude-adjustment session. 
“This morning, soldiers stopped by for a visit again. We are doing our duty with the same goal for the benefit and happiness of the people,” Srisuwan said in a Facebook post. 
He added that he too met the military top brass at the Lak Si district office at 11am yesterday.
The environmentalist added that he had initially been asked to meet the military on Monday at a military camp, before the NCPO announced the new, relaxed rules. 
So the appointment was held at the district office.
Srisuwan suspects that he was summoned because of his call for transparency over the government’s real-estate project – Ban Man Kong. He said he believed the summons for him would mark the first attitude-adjustment outside military camps.
Separately, the lifting of the travel ban on politicians was published in the Royal Gazette on Tuesday, taking immediate effect.
The order was signed on Tuesday by Prayut in his capacity as NCPO chief.
The new order annulled previous NCPO orders that banned several politicians who had earlier been summoned for attitude adjustment sessions from leaving the Kingdom.