Prayut: No reconciliation for lawbreakers

Prayut: No reconciliation for lawbreakers

National reconciliation will proceed but not at the expense of justice and the rule of law, says Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

In a strongly worded "message to the people" released on Saturday morning, Gen Prayut attacked the previous government and Thaksin Shinawatra, while also urging the public to support the new constitution drafting process.

While declining to name names, Gen Prayut said he did not want to be anyone's enemy but he would not let "anyone with bad intentions toward the monarchy" rob the country, hurt people or pressure the government or constitution writers.

Thaksin, who has lived abroad since 2008, was accused by his opponents of attempting to sideline the monarchy, a charge he consistently denies. His opponents also blame him for directing the May 2010 red-shirt protests that led to widespread violence and deaths.

"If that person had confessed and faced justice from the start, there would not have been problems," Gen Prayut said. "There would not be the NCPO [National Council for Peace and Order] today and people would not have died because of the unknown militants — and we all know who they support."

The prime minister also accused the previous government of not being serious enough about preventing lese majeste, which he claimed flourished under former premier Yingluck Shinawatra.

"These people use technology to avoid being arrested, and support groups that create and disseminate false news aimed at undermining the credibility of the country."

The 17-minute-long statement was read in a national TV address by Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd, a spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office, at 8am.

It is not clear what prompted the release of the statement, given that the premier also addresses the country every Friday evening for an hour or more.

However, the military regime has been facing intense criticism for a proposal to create a single internet gateway for Thailand. A leaked cabinet document claimed the main aim of the Chinese-style "Great Firewall" would be to allow officials to screen out inappropriate material, including lese majeste.

Officials have attempted unsuccessfully to downplay concerns about the plan. Internet users say that in addition to curbing freedom of expression, it would slow down communication and hurt the country economically.

In his address on Saturday, Gen Prayut said that for reforms to be successful, the new constitution must be based on the guidelines laid down by the junta.

"It must provide solutions to the country's strife of the past several years. These problems must be solved by some democratic means, but not the kind with boundless freedom without consideration of where the real problems are."

The writers will have to listen to people's opinions and build on the previous charter drafted by the team led by Borwornsak Uwanno.

"The important point is they must listen to all groups of people. In the past, some people tried to distort the facts and said the [Borwornsak] team listened only to the elite," said Gen Prtayut.

"In fact, there is not such group in Thailand. There is no elite, middle class or low class here. These terms are just rhetoric used by politicians seeking to drive a wedge in society for their own gain.

"Some even accuse the NCPO and the government of abusing Section 112 [the lese majeste law] to destroy our opponents," he continued.

"Before May 22, 2014 [when the coup was staged], security agencies tried to prevent lese majeste but these people used modern technology to avoid being caught. They also supported groups who created and spread rumours to erode confidence in the country. But the powers-that-be at the time did not try to suppress them.

"Since May 22, 2014, the NCPO and the government have done our best but the truth is that preventing and blocking such content is hard.

"Locally, we enforce the law but these people keep opening new websites. When officials finally get hold of the perpetrators, they build a network to shield themselves, citing human rights, and then flee abroad."

In drafting the new charter, Gen Prayut urged participation of the public at large, politicians and academics.

"We want them to express their views through the channels provided by the CDC. They should not talk to the media because society will be confused about what is true and what isn't."

"In drafting the charter, we want to eliminate parliamentary dictatorship, corruption and illegal activities. [We need to determine] how to balance the three branches of power and strengthen bureaucratic governance."

Sustainable reforms in all dimensions will take time and cannot be done in one or two years, he continued.

"This doesn't mean the NCPO will stay on until the end. We're only getting the ball rolling to lay the groundwork for future concrete results."

The NCPO and the government, he said, understand that most people outside of Thailand are not familiar with solving problems by seizing power, something the military has done more than a dozen times.

The junta and the government also hope the charter drafting process will attract public participation so the new constitution can address the country's real problems, Gen Prayut said.

"It would be nice if soldiers did not have to move in to solve problems like in the past. ... We hope May 22, 2014 will be the last [coup]

"Most importantly, we urge you all to support determined and honest people. Don't let them be pressured or condemned by those who do not really love the country," he concluded.

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