BANGKOK – Thailand’s Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-ocha defended a new security measure recently invoked under Article 44 of the interim constitution to replace martial law.
“We need to fix legal mechanisms and laws in order to address problems,” he said, adding his government sometimes needs to take “a shortcut” when facing legal obstacles.
Under the new security measure, the military gets to maintain sweeping powers. Military officers, for example, can detain anyone for seven days without formal charges, on grounds of suspicion related to national security. Public gatherings of more than five people are also illegal under the new rule, while the media continues to face strict censorship by the government.
Gen Prayut admitted that the political situation in Thailand at present has raised concerns among foreign countries. “I have already sent government representatives to explain the matter to those countries,” he said.
The Thai Prime Minister added that his government has faced “many problems” – internally and internationally – over the past six months. He complained that the media is “ill-informed”, unfairly criticising his administration without seeking to understand the government’s aims, or without looking at figures depicting a pickup in the economy and tourism.
“Every minister agreed to take office as they want to help Thailand. Everything we do, we do for Thailand,” he said.
In his 90-minute address, which marked six months in office, Gen Prayut defended his government’s performance, emphasising that its main purpose remains reforming Thailand and restoring peace and stability.
“Some may call my governance aggressive, but I want to say that it’s for the good of Thailand,” he said. “Please understand that my government needs to do what we’re doing to solve critical problems in Thailand to restore peace and order.”
Gen Prayut – who led last year’s coup d’état that toppled the elected administration under former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra – explained his government has chosen to carry out their various policies carefully, rather than swiftly.
He said his government’s focus is on solving short-term problems, such as those stemming from the first-time car buyer scheme, which he said hurt the automobile industry.
The incentive – a brainchild of the Yingluck administration – offered first-time car buyers a hefty tax rebate of up to 100,000 Baht (US$3,300) and attracted more than a million Thai buyers. However, it subsequently led to swelling household debt.
Gen Prayut also said he was determined to improve education in Thailand. He called on well-known private tutors across all subjects to volunteer with the government to help raise Thailand’s education standard.
He then issued a similar call to the business sector, urging it to assist his administration in driving the Thai economy forward. He referenced Singapore’s ability to attract foreign investors to the country under the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s leadership, adding that Thailand should be able to do the same.
Gen Prayut ended his national address saying that he had hope for the country’s brighter future, and called on the public to continue to give him their support. -CNA/PP