PM rebuffs US martial law barbs
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PM rebuffs US martial law barbs

Let Yingluck meet envoy, didn't want to be a bully

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has reacted to comments from US envoy Daniel Russel about martial law, asking how the US would maintain order without it if violence and chaos erupted there.

The premier also said he planned to attend the annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meeting in September to boost confidence among the international community.

Gen Prayut: Didn't want to be accused of bullying a lady.

Gen Prayut said Tuesday he was informed by Foreign Minister Tanasak Patimapragorn about the concerns voiced by the US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs about political fairness, freedom of expression and martial law but insisted that martial law was a necessary tool to maintain order, following the previous political conflicts.

"Gen Tanasak told me that he asked Mr Russel how the US would handle political violence or chaos if the US faced the same situation and martial law was lifted.

"He [Mr Russel] could not give an answer," Gen Prayut said.

"Martial law was imposed for a specific objective, not for targeting any particular person. If everybody came out and caused chaos, how could we work and how could we move on?" Gen Prayut added.

The prime minister said he is ready to explain the situation to the international community at the UN and ready to attend the 70th UN General Assembly (UNGA) in September.

"I met ambassadors to the UN from 21 countries and convinced them about the road map and that I take responsibility [for the coup]. The feedback from them was positive," Gen Prayut said.

"I am ready to attend the UNGA to state the government's goal of making our country completely democratic, with elections and politicians who are virtuous and govern well," he added.

Regarding the meeting between Mr Russel and former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra who was impeached by the National Legislative Assembly, Gen Prayut said he had absolute power to allow or bar the meeting but wanted to show that power should not be abused.

"I have the power to bar her from meeting with anyone or travelling anywhere but I do not use the power for such reasons. If I curb her rights, I will be accused of abusing power or bullying a lady," the prime minister said.

Maj Gen Sanserm Kaewkamnerd, a deputy government spokesman, told reporters that Gen Tanasak had reported his meeting with the US envoy to the cabinet, saying the discussion was constructive as the US expressed understanding of the government's role.

"Gen Tanasak insisted that Mr Russel's comments were expressions from a country that adheres to democracy but he understands what the government is doing," Maj Gen Sansern said.

The deputy spokesman also said the government is ready to share views from him as well as other figures including former prime ministers.

"We are ready to hear views from all sides to show our sincere intention to bring the country back to democracy," he said.

Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said the meeting between Ms Yingluck and the US envoy happened because it was not expected to deepen rifts in the country. He also reiterated the necessity of martial law, following the call from Mr Russel to lift it.

"Each country has its own practices and we have our own way to deal with problems we face. I insist that we have to maintain martial law to keep everything in order," he said.

Responding to reports saying that Gen Prawit is negotiating with former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as part of the plan to achieve national reconciliation, the deputy prime minister denied it.

"I have never talked to him or anyone about reconciliation," he said.

Former foreign minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul, who attended Ms Yingluck's meeting with the US envoy, said Mr Russel's concerns reflect the views of democratic countries which see martial law as a tool barring people from expressing their views. Mr Surapong said he did not see the door of reconciliation being open as people cannot hold assemblies or offer ideas for reform.

Mr Surapong also urged the government to undertake judicial reform and build a democracy acceptable by the world community.

"The government should understand Mr Russel's warning if they are wise, as the US is our ally, not our enemy. He emphasised that the voice of the majority should be heard," Mr Surapong said, adding that Thailand could become a military-ruled nation like Myanmar if it loses its democratic way.

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