Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha said as far as I know, people are happier than they were before. What people are happy about is that the nation is at peace and in order. For me, I am happy because I make other people happy. As for the power I have, no, I’m not happy.
Prayut, who led the military seizure in May last year in his capacity as Army chief, said many foreigners had told him they were content with the current situation in Thailand.
“People from Europe, the West and superpower nations have come to visit me. They show respect and say they are happy that I’m in power. They even ask me if I can ensure that Thailand continues in this manner. I’m not lying to you,” Prayut said.
Prayut was speaking to Scott Heidler, an Asia correspondent for the Qatar-based TV station Al Jazeera, in an interview this weekend.
Prayut, who is also leader of the National Council for Peace and Order, insisted that he never considered himself as the best man to run the country, but said he took office due to circumstance.
“I had to do this because no one else would. Now, I’m trying to follow the road-map. I’ll be here only for a year or two,” he said.
Since the May 22 coup, Prayut has attracted much criticism, being accused of undermining the country’s democracy and curbing press freedom.
Asked to respond to the red-shirt movement’s notion of how the reconciliation process is non-existent, Prayut said he has tried to be fair, but the red shirts need to be brought to justice because they are to blame.
“I am not an enemy of the red or the yellow shirts. People must stop taking sides based on color. Be they red shirts or any other color, they must be brought to justice because they are to blame. I’m not bullying anybody,” he said.
He also cited some instances for which the red shirts are being blamed, including the burning down of provincial government buildings and shooting at officials. He said the evidence is very clear, but nobody wants to take responsibility.
Heidler pointed out that press freedom was the baseline of democracy and he asked Prayut about his notorious statement about executing journalists. The prime minister responded by saying he was just joking with the journalists and that this was the Thai sense of humor.
“Thai journalists know that I’m just joking with them. I’ve always been kind and compassionate, but the local media needs to be reformed and I have to advise them. I have to tell them what they can or cannot do, but I’ve never punished a single person from the press,” he said.
Separately, in an article published in a government newsletter, Prayut said his government was promoting good governance so that the concept would take hold in Thailand.
“I am trying to rebuild the governance system,” he wrote.
In the article, Prayut also said he had to work harder as there were many challenges ahead. The Department of Public Relations publishes the newsletter twice a week.