Bolstered by a royal endorsement Monday to run the country after last week’s coup, Thailand’s junta leader warned citizens not to cause trouble, not to criticize, not to protest – or else face a return to the “old days” of street violence.
Dressed in a crisp white military uniform, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha said he had seized power to restore order after seven months of violent confrontations and political turmoil between the now-ousted government and demonstrators who had called repeatedly for the army to intervene.
“I’m not here to argue with anyone. I want to bring everything out in the open and fix it,” Prayuth said in his first news conference since taking power last Thursday. “Everyone must help me,” he said, before adding: “Do not criticize, do not create new problems. It’s no use.”
The warning came even as an aide to former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra said she had been released Monday from military custody. Yingluck, who was forced from power by a controversial court ruling earlier this month, had been held at an undisclosed location without a telephone since Friday.
The aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said Yingluck had returned to her home.
In a gruff, 20-minute appearance, Prayuth warned the media and social media users to avoid doing anything that could fan the conflict. He also called on anti-coup protesters in Bangkok and several other cities for several days to stop.
“Right now there are people coming out to protest. So do you want to go back to the old days? I’m asking the people in the country, if you want it that way, then I will have to enforce the law.”
Earlier Monday, King Bhumibol Adulyadej officially endorsed Prayuth to run the country in a royal command that called for “reconciliation among the people”.
Bhumibol, who is 86 and in fragile health, did not attend the ceremony at the army headquarters in Bangkok. But the monarch’s statement removed any speculation that the palace, which has been silent so far, might withhold its support for the junta.
After the speech, the general took only two questions — about plans for a new administration.
Asked if he would appoint a new prime minister, Prayuth replied gruffly: “Don’t ask about something that hasn’t arrived. It’s already in the plans. Take it easy. There will be one.”
Asked when elections would be held, Prayuth said i could happen when crisis ends. It “depends on the circumstances”, he said. “As quickly as possible. That’s enough.”
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