Prayut sticks to mission entering Year 2

Prayut sticks to mission entering Year 2

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha gestures as he talks to reporters at Government House on Friday, the one-year anniversary of the coup. (Photo by Thiti Wannamontha)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha gestures as he talks to reporters at Government House on Friday, the one-year anniversary of the coup. (Photo by Thiti Wannamontha)

One year after leading a military coup, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Friday that his goal remained unchanged.

"The NCPO (National Council for Peace and Order) has continually maintained its determination to return happiness to the people in the nation," Gen Prayut said in his weekly relevised address.

He reiterated that he led the takeover reluctantly on May 22 last year after it became clear that the political conflict would only lead to worse violence and insecurity.

But he admitted that not all the problems facing the country had been solved in the past year. "Bigger problems needed more time to address," he said without elaborating.

Earlier in the day, in talks with reporters at Government House, the premier admitted that conflict remained one of his biggest concerns and this was reflected in the growing debate over the draft constitution.

"Not everybody wants to go for a change," he said.

The draft charter will reach a crucial stage on Aug 6 when the National Reform Council (NRC) votes whether to approve or reject it. If it is approved it will be put to a public referendum.

The referendum could be held in January next year and new elections would be held around August if the draft charter survives.

Gen Prayut also said at Government House that he had no intention of prolonging his stay power at the expense of the new constitution. The referendum will set the direction on his time in power, he added.

The coup anniversary comes at a time when Thailand is at the centre of a major regional crisis involving thousands of Rohingya boat people.

Bangkok will be the site of an international meeting on migration next Friday. Representatives of 16 countries, including Myanmar and Bangladesh, the sources of the migrants, are expected to attend along with UN and other international agencies.

Gen Prayut reiterated his administration's position that Thailand would not set up refugee camps for the Rohingya but would expand holding areas for them.

"Permanent shelters will not be built, because we already have nine shelters in eight provinces that are housing 140,000 people," he said, referring to camps along the border with Myanmar, where refugees from conflict have lived for decades.

"We will be making expansions to the holding areas in order to offer the migrants better living conditions," he added.

He warned, however, that all migrants illegally entering Thailand would face legal action.

"In addressing the [migrant] problem, we start with humanitarian aid," he said in his TV address. "Then, as dictated by UN rules, we ask the migrants about their intentions — what they want to do and where they want to go. We have to ask them first. If they come into Thai territory then Thai law has clear stipulations that apply."

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