Prayut vows to hold power until 'peace' restored

Prayut vows to hold power until 'peace' restored

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha addresses the opening of G-77 forum on the
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha addresses the opening of G-77 forum on the "sufficiency economy" and sustainable development goals. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha threatened his critics on Wednesday that he would hold on to power “despite how much you hate me” until peace has been fully returned to the country.

"Frankly speaking, I won't go anywhere as long as the country is not at peace and in order. I won't leave, despite how much you hate me," General Prayut told diplomats from a group of 134 developing countries known as G-77 at a forum in Bangkok.

"No peace, no leave".

The junta leader, who is renowned for his frequent tirades, said he would use the 200,000 soldiers at his disposal to continue to lead the country.

 "Without soldiers, Thailand can go nowhere. Nowadays, we are using soldiers to steer the country. Our troops aren't meant to fight anybody or to persecute politicians," Gen Prayut said.

The general's latest outburst flies in the face of repeated pledges to restore democracy through elections next year, even if the proposed constitution fails an Aug. 7 referendum.

On the surface, the political climate has calmed significantly under the military since its May 2014 coup. But disquiet is returning before the referendum, despite a new law that punishes campaigning in the run-up to the vote with up to 10 years in prison.

To keep the calm, Gen Prayut has given himself sweeping powers that he defended on Wednesday, saying "there are still some politicians expressing their opinions".

"Martial law and Section 44 are crucial for Thailand keeping peace and moving towards the elections," he said, arguing that said the country has not returned to normalcy as it has does not yet have an elected civilian government.

As such, he said, it needs "special laws" to deal with severe problems, such as corruption.

Speaking in Thai, the prime minister said his daily workload often kept him awake at night as he continues to remain in office to accelerate solutions and development for the country, not because of a thirst for power.

"I've had more than enough power over the past nearly 40 years... I am exercising my power to bring quick solutions so I can leave quickly. I am sick of seeing my face on TV news programmes everyday."

As leading Western democracies have been urging the ruling generals to return power to the people through a general election, Gen Prayut said a one-size "shirt" doesn't fit everyone.

"We countries in the G-77 should have the liberty to select which shirt we want to choose to fit our people."

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