Opposition Alarmed by Prayuth’s ‘Coup Threat’

Junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha on July 2, 2019.

BANGKOK — Junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha’s hint at staging another coup prompted outcries from opposition politicos on Tuesday.

After Prayuth warned politicians not to force him to resort to “the old method that no one wants to see happen” in a statement yesterday, the anti-junta faction condemned the remark as a thinly-veiled threat to revisit the option of a putsch – as the general did in May 2014.

“This is no longer an apology, but a threat,” Chaturon Chaisang, a leader of the now-defunct Thai Raksa Chart Party, wrote online. “This threat cannot be interpreted as anything other than a reference to the military coup that he performed five years ago.”

“Did he mean what he said?” Pheu Thai spokeswoman Sunisa Lertpakawat asked. “Is he threatening the people that he will order the armed forces to seize power if he cannot endure the political unrest?”

She added that Prayuth should be held responsible for the remark.

“His words are unconstructive and illegal, because they can be seen as preparation for an insurrection,” Sunisa said.

The warning from the junta leader came in a letter released to the media on Monday, in which Prayuth apologised for an ongoing fight among coalition parties to secure key cabinet posts.

When asked to explain his message at Government House today, Gen. Prayuth replied, “There’s nothing,” before walking past the crowd of reporters.

Transparency activist Srisuwan Janya joined the chorus of condemnation against the alleged reference to a coup. In a statement, Srisuwan faulted Prayuth for failing to unite his own coalition and form a stable government despite three months passing since the election.

“This is an expression of power to threaten politicians, which in turn threatens the people of the whole country,” said the activist, who recently filed legal challenges against both pro- and anti-junta politicians. “Does he expect us to only behave meekly?”

It was not the first time that members of the regime implied a future coup might be possible. In October 2018, a newly appointed army chief said a putsch will not happen as long as there is peace in the country.

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