In remarks on Wednesday, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told journalists that he would “probably just execute” those among them who failed to “report the truth.”
Prayuth has headed the ruling military junta since ousting his predecessor Yingluck Shinawatra in a coup last year. He speaking at a press conference when reporters asked him how he would handle reporters who disagree with the government. As Reuters described it, he said that “we’ll probably just execute them,” answering the question “without a hint of a smile.”
Thai news outlets have proven troublesome for the leader recently. His press conference coincided with the publication of an Associated Press article implicating Thailand in a slavery trade linked to the fishing industry in Southeast Asia, a story that had previously been reported elsewhere. On Wednesday, Prayuth criticized a Thai television reporter who had covered the fishing industry, warning that such negative press could affect the entire Thai economy.
Bloomberg noted that Prayuth suggested the journalist, instead of reporting the story, “should have brought her findings on the issue to the government’s attention.”
Since Prayuth came to power last May, Human Rights Watch reports, “the junta has detained more than 300 politicians, activists, journalists, and people that it accused of supporting the deposed government, disrespecting the monarchy, or being involved in anti-coup protests and activities.” It does so under a Thai martial law that dates back to 1914.
Furthermore, HRW claims, the government blocks hundreds of websites as “threats to national security,” takes proactive steps to silence its critics in the media, and “has banned public gatherings of more than five people.” Symbolic acts of resistance, including publicly reading copies of George Orwell’s “1984” and using a three-finger salute popularized by the Hunger Games book and movie franchise, are also causes for prosecution by military courts and prison sentences of up to two years.
Despite all this, Bloomberg reports, Prayuth insisted that “I don’t prohibit criticism. You can criticize, but you need to understand too.”
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