An excerpt from junta chairman and Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha's press conference on 25 March 2015.
Known for his mercurial exchanges with the press, Gen. Prayuth rarely speaks from a script. His friendly jests can quickly transition into angy tirades, as he veers wildly between unrelated subjects, making gruff, vague declarations that can be difficult to translate and convey in short excerpts. Instead of attempting to write around select quotes, today Khaosod English has decided to publish an excerpt from this morning’s press conference to provide English readers with an unedited glimpse into the junta chairman’s style of speech.
Below is an excerpt from an especially heated discussion with reporters at the Royal Thai Air Forces Base this morning, prior to Gen. Prayuth's flight to Brunei, where he is scheduled to meet with Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah:
Reporter: There has been a talk about a possible shift in the Cabinet, especially the team working on economic issues.
Gen. Prayuth: Only you people talk about there being a cabinet shift. If a shift will make it better, yes, but let me ask: under the current situation, will shifting people solve the problems? I want you to answer. Suppose that your newspaper, you want it to sell well, so you fire this damn reporter, fire that editor, will it be better? Problems cannot be solved so easily. The country has 70 million people. There are hundreds and thousands of issues. Join hands together, because today there is a good opportunity now that this government has entered [the scene]. Unite people to solve problems, unite all of the sides. Don’t end up criticizing everything, as though this is a normal government. Don't you understand that?
You want freedom, I gave you freedom. Everything. I never forbid anything. No one else gave it to you like this. I will wait a little while and see, about the working of the media. The things that I and the government have done are for all Thai people. But when I want to introduce new measures, you don't accept them. You want to go back to the same old place. The media makes society divided. And what can I gain from what I have done? I am not politician. I am not motivated by self interest. I do not have businesses. The reason why I am talking now is not because I want to remind you of your debt of gratitude. All the things I have done are for the Thai people. If anyone doesn't understand, they are not Thais. That's all. The media has to help. From now on, I will keep my eyes on all media [agencies] and, if necessary, I will use my power on everyone. I am not saying you cannot criticize me. You can criticize me, but you have to have some understanding. Today there are still the orders from the NCPO. Have you forgotten that? Have you? It's been too relaxing for you, maybe?
Reporter: If the media reports divisive news, will any action be taken against them?
Gen. Prayuth: Any media agency that causes divisions has to be dealt with by the [Thai Journalist] Association. Let it investigate them. But if the Association can't do anything, I will have the Council [National Council for Peace and Order] investigate them. Let's see whether that damn media agency causes divisions. If you criticize generally, I don't mind that. A little of criticism, I can accept that. But if you say every day that I am a failure, how the hell can I be a failure? The previous things were even worse than a failure. Now that I am here to fix it, things will get better from that failure, of course. Learn to think like that.
Reporter: So will you shut down the media?
Gen. Prayuth: Don't pick a fight with me, don't make me go to war with the media.
Reporter: So what will be the punishment?
Gen. Prayuth: Execution, maybe? You ask silly questions. Just don't do actions [that warrant punishment]. Be cautious. The media has to exercise their judgment. Have some ethics. You keep calling for ethics. But they don’t know how to use ethics. They don't use that. Whatever constitutes cooperation with the people, lend me your hand. Whatever causes conflict, refrain from it. See that the government is working. But today, not a single newspaper says that. Very few, and only some people say that. I am not asking you to cheer me. I will use a dog-headed execution device [a mythical Chinese guillotine device]. I will deal with the media. But I still love them. Please, help me out. Don't make excuses for me, please just help me build love and unity. Now that we are here, let's change a crisis into an opportunity. Don't make a crisis into another crisis.
Reporter: Why don't you see these criticisms as suggestions?
Gen. Prayuth: Well, go look at all this criticism from the media. Is it constructive? They ask, can Gen. Prayuth work for the Nation, the Religion, and the Monarchy? Why are they even asking that question? Today I am here precisely for those things. How the hell is that constructive?
[Gen. Prayuth orders his assistant to retrieve some newspapers from his car]
Gen. Prayuth: Let's see. And help me decide, does this damn person write well? Then I will say, don't buy their papers. Make them lose their jobs.
[Reporters say they have no more questions and urge Gen. Prayuth to hurry up for his flight to Brunei]
Gen. Prayuth: If I arrive late, I will inform His Majesty the Sultan that it is because of all of you. I am not angry today. I'm just in bad mood.
[Gen. Prayuth’s aide returns with Matichon and Manager newspapers. Prayuth points to Matichon newspaper.]
Gen. Prayuth: Where's the reporter from Matichon group? Go take a look. Write your news well. Don't write news that supports the other side too much. Let me tell you, in the previous government Matichon sold really well in the Ministry of Interior Affairs. Dig it up. It's because the Ministry of Interior Affairs ordered people to buy only Matichon, so it hurt the businesses of other papers.
[Gen. Prayuth then comments on Manager newspaper.]
Gen. Prayuth: Why make a big fuss? I don't understand. They want this. They want that. Especially Manager. I can't read a single page they write. Are they all mad? They write about nonsensical things every day. What do they want, huh? They are so intelligent. Come on, meung [Thai insult], come administer the country. Come serve as MP. Damn [ไอ้] Chatchawarn, damn Sophon [Manager columnists]. These people. This government says this, like this, if they want to criticize me, go ahead. I can take it. But I am a human. I'm not a Prime Minister who is not a human. I also have feelings. I have a life and feelings.
Media Must Do More Than Report Facts, Says Prayuth