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I'm not a dictator, says angry Prayut

Nov 22. 2014
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By The Nation

Warns that 'unfounded antagonism towards the government' will destabilise country
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha asserted yesterday that his government was not dictatorial although he admitted that it “may not be 100 per cent democratic”.
He reiterated that he had no plan to set up a pro-military political party that would inherit power from his post-coup administration.
“Did I do anything wrong? Have I done any damage or wasn’t the situation already bad when I took over?” Prayut said.
“I may not be 100 per cent democratic. But I want to ask if being 100 per cent democratic did anything good to the country? Find the answer for me,” he added, appearing tense.
General Prayut, who led the coup of May 22 while serving as the Army chief, also urged anti-coup activists not to obstruct his government’s work on national reform. 
“I am ready to listen to any problem. They should tell me. But don’t ask for democracy or an election now. I can’t give it to you,” he said.
The prime minister has been on the defensive following his first visit to the Northeast on Wednesday, when five students staged a protest in front of the stage where he was giving an address at Khon Kaen Provincial Hall.
The students from Khon Kaen University were arrested after making a three-finger salute at the PM. The salute is associated with the anti-coup movement.
They were later released after meeting military authorities and their parents.
“I don’t want to punish them [the students] so they were merely reprimanded, released and told not to do it again because it does not benefit anyone,” Prayut said.
He praised their courage but added that they should think of the country’s future. He also warned that the students’ future could be jeopardised if they had a problem with the law.
When asked if a pro-military party would be formed, Prayut said: “You have to ask people who said this. I have never said it and I have never thought about doing it. Don’t report about this nonsense.”
The premier was speaking to the media on the sidelines of the Thailand Energy Awards 2014 presentation ceremony at Government House. 
Prayut, who also heads the National Council for Peace and Order, reiterated that there was no plan to lift martial law, in effect since the coup. 
In his weekly national address last night, the prime minister warned that “unfounded antagonism towards the government”, as well as continued conflicts, would destabilise the country.
“The complete and strong democracy that we are building will not be realised if we continue to quarrel without civility, and things will go back to the way they were,” he said in the TV programme “Returning Happiness to People in the Country”.
He said that in the current situation, exercising freedom of the press without boundaries would do more harm than good for the country. 
“The government and the NCPO have never thought of using force towards the press, but all we are seeking is your cooperation and respect for the law,” he said.
Prayut said his government was “just the facilitator” in the ongoing national reform movement. 
“We are trying to get everyone involved in the reform process so that the outcome of our efforts can be enjoyed by all of us,” he said. “The government is just a facilitator for all stakeholders to come together to address our common problems.”
He said the government was acting as a referee or an organiser of the process, and was not a player.
“In sports, athletes must play by the rules while the referees or the judges are the ones enforcing these rules,” he said. “On the other hand, the organiser is the one who makes sure that everyone involved in the competition, including the fans, are safe.”

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