BANGKOK — Thai junta chairman Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha says he is considering replacing martial law with Article 44 of the interim constitution, but has refused to provide any details about if and when this transition will occur.
The proposal, announced on Friday, has already come under fierce criticism from politicians, legal scholars, and human rights groups who warn that the clause will grant the junta chairman even broader powers than those prescribed under martial law.
Under Article 44 of the interim constitution, which Gen. Prayuth has yet to invoke, the junta chairman is authorized to issue any order to “disrupt or suppress” an act that threatens to undermine national security, the monarchy, the economy, or the “administration of state affairs.” These orders will be considered “legal, constitutional and conclusive,” the article states.
Below is a transcript of Gen. Prayuth’s conversation with reporters about invoking Article 44 on 29 March after he returned from the state funeral of Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore.
Reporter: When will you impose Section 44?
Prayuth: It will happen when it does.
Reporter: The NHRC [National Human Rights Commission] suggested the government reconsider the use of Section 44.
Prayuth: Go tell NHRC to take care of the country and make it peaceful. They can't even do that. In the past, both Internal Security Act and Emergency Decree have been used, but could they do it? That's why we have [this situation] today.
Reporter: Will Section 44 draw more pressure from international community?
Prayuth: The main focus should be the people inside the country. Today, the people in the country have suffered long enough. Don't make us fight anyone again. Have some responsibility. Focus on things that are more essential.
Reporter: Can martial law be repealed before Songkran?
Prayuth: I'm not answering that. You keep asking. There is martial law, but does it trouble you? Has anyone put you in jail? You keep criticizing me, but has anyone done anything to you?
Reporter: Not only the people will pressure you on this, but also the international community.
Prayuth: What international? Today, I met the former President of the United States, the former Prime Minister of Japan. They expressed their congratulations that Thailand is peaceful. None of them criticized me. But some of our people, they make them say that we have to do this, do that. I ask you, why are we letting them force us to do things they order?
Reporter: If the government has not been pressured about the martial law, then what drove you to think about the swapping?
Prayuth: I have not swapped anything. But since you keep asking me everyday whether I will swap it, I will swap it for you, that's all. And has there been any swapping so far? No, it has not. I am not afraid of anyone. Why do I have to be afraid? I do for Thai people. If you are not a Thai person, don't bother me. Who's Thai here? Raise your hand.
Reporter: After the new constitution has been released, will you take any position in the new organizations?
Prayuth: I want to solve problems first, then we’ll talk about it. Don't worry. If you want the country to improve, be safe, and develop to match other countries, we cannot live like this. It depends on the people of the nation, what they want. When the time comes, I may ask the people what they want.
Reporter: Regarding the economy…
Prayuth: We are working on everything. We work more than the previous government that the reporters liked. Problems come in steps. But I will not blame anyone, and I will do my best. In the past, we let them grow rubber in the national parks. Therefore, the rubber price will never be better. We need zoning, and let me tell you, I will do it in my time. How much time I have, that's it. I want Ms. Somjit [the reporter] to listen to me, too. I am not angry at you today, because I want to calm my spirit after the funeral of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew.
As Prayuth left the interview for his car, he loudly said to officials, "Which reporters asked about the martial law? There's one man and one woman. I will order the NCPO to see whether they have been troubled by martial law."