Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha appeared on television on Friday with a new-look set but delivered a well-worn message that there is a right and a wrong way to express opinions.
Published: 28/11/2014 at 09:45 PM
The government remained open to all comments made through “appropriate channels”, which should not be misinterpreted as attempts to curb the public’s right to free expression, he said.
Expressions of discontent with the six-month-old military regime have increased in recent weeks. They have included a brief demonstration by students in Khon Kaen where the premier was speaking, and small protests in which young people flashed the three-fingered Hunger Games salute. Two incidents involving the distribution if anti-coup leaflets also took place last week.
“We take inputs from all groups, provided that they are serious and made through appropriate channels,” Gen Prayut said in remarks that were recorded on Tuesday before he left on an official visit to Vietnam. “We are not trying to eliminate enemies. We have no enemies and we are not looking to limit the rights of anyone.”
The pre-recorded address featured a seated Gen Prayut against the backdrop of Thai Ku Fah Building in Government House, after he told his producers he wanted a more attractive presentation.
His complaints about the stiff production values of the show touched off an online campaign to “help” the producers find a new look. Few of the visual suggestions were serious.
Without making specific reference to recent protests, Gen Prayut promised to hold a forum for students to gauge their opinions about reform.
The Khon Kaen incident on Nov 9 has led to beefed-up security measures for the premier.
Gen Prayut was scheduled to deliver a keynote speech on vocational study at Impact Arena, Muang Thong Thani, after returning from Vietnam on Friday.
Soldiers and police in uniform and in plainclothes were at the venue to thoroughly check the bags of participants.
An official at the Prime Minister’s Office said authorities wanted to make sure that there would be no repeats of earlier displays such as three-fingered salutes.
Earlier in the day, Gen Prayut defended the actions of his military government against one of its sternest critics.
He said the decision to block the website of the Thai branch of Human Rights Watch (HRW) was taken because the group breached national security rules.
The blackout was ordered by the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) MInistry, although most internet users quickly found a way around it.
The premier said he had previously told the ministry about his views on how to maintain order, but ICT officials have since drawn up their own guidelines.
Discussing HRW specifically, he said: “How have they been muzzled? Before making complaints, have a look at what they wrote.
“If people say others should have the freedom to write anything and insult anyone, then let’s try it. Thailand will not survive.”
Gen Prayut also lashed out against some newspapers for writing “groundless” reports about inconsequential issues.
“I am not your foe. I read your newspapers every day but select the stories which are more constructive and intellectual,” he said.