BANGKOK — Junta chairman and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha lashed out at the press today, accusing reporters of being paid to criticize his government, and warning that the country is on the brink of collapse.
Gen. Prayuth, who is known for his long-winded and often irritated asides during speeches and press conferences, delivered the tirade at an air force base following his return from a state visit to Myanmar today.
The following is an excerpt from the encounter:
Prayuth: I try to do everything in the best way I can. I am responsible for all problems at this time, no matter what. I will do my best. Today may not be good, but tomorrow will be good. Or do you want things to be good today but face bankruptcy in the future? You have to choose, I guess. You can spend all of your money and get yourself in debt. Eventually you will be bankrupt. It depends on everyone. If you want the country to be peaceful, you have to think things through again.
I am never an enemy of reporters, but these days you still write and attack me everyday. Every paper attacks me. I’m too lazy to speak about this. I have done so much, but no one writes about what I have done. Or when they do, they write so little. But they pay so much attention to the conflicts. There are many conflicts right now. Politics is bad. The climate is bad. Farmers don’t get paid. People are calling for a wage raise. Let me ask you: can you write and help the country be peaceful?
Everyone knows that the problems in this country are global problems. But the media never backs off an inch on these issues. When I speak, you say I try to cover up the truth. Everyone knows about this. You have to help me think, and allow for time to solve the problems, so that there will be sustainability. All the problems have been here for decades, because the structure was not there, and no one fixed it. Today, we will begin by fixing the structures: agriculture, water, infrastructure, laws. We are working to fix everything, but the media keeps writing that I have not done any work at all, that I haven’t passed any reforms at all. I am sad, too. I am sad to be born in this country.
Today we have to change the way Thai people think. It’s not as if I don’t feel pity. What I do these days, it is because I pity the poor. I pity those who earn little. I’m well aware of how they suffer. If I didn’t pity the poor, I wouldn’t be here. Really. There would be no reason for me to stay … Every country that I visit, they are all developed. No one talks about conflicts. Every country wants to end the conflicts. It’s only our country that tries to dig it up, this issue, that issue. And then you say that we are suppressing you. If I really suppressed you, things wouldn’t be like this. I wouldn’t be in bad mood like this. If I were to suppress you, I would have suppressed it all. But I didn’t do it. So, you should have some consideration for me. Yet you have none. You write what you want to write. You insult the people you want to insult.
Many of you didn’t elect me, that’s true, no one has elected me. It’s me who came to this place on my own. Maybe I am here for personal gain? I don’t know. The media keeps writing that I have a personal stake in this, I have a personal stake in that. I am here to solve problems for all Thais. But today you divide people into factions. Many people have lost their heart in working. Bureaucrats are also having bad time, because I have to be strict with them, but at the same time they are attacked [by media]. So they don’t know what to do. There are many good bureaucrats, over 90 percent are good. They feel disheartened. The Cabinet also doesn’t know for whom they will work. We are not seeking any personal gain at all, but we keep getting insulted everyday. You never give us support. I want to ask you: who will [want to] work for you? What do you want from me? I’m bored. I don’t want to complain.
Today, I can think about things on my own. Whether about [legalizing] casinos or other issues. If the media wants to criticize me, I ask you to criticize politicians who comment about these things sometimes. Do you dare to do that? Go ask them, why they comment on these issues. What is reform? Ask them sometimes. Especially those former Ministers, ask them how they want the reforms to be. Don’t only chase me with questions everyday like this. I tell you everyday, I do things for you everyday, but you won’t listen, or you listen but pretend you didn’t listen. You keep asking questions because you want to pick a fight. I am not angry at you, reporters, because I know that you were ordered to do this. If you write well, they won’t publish your stories. If you write badly, you will get paid. Otherwise, they wouldn’t pay you. Everyone knows this. Editors. Rewriters. They have to screen the news. If you write well, they won’t publish it.
[Some reporters say that they are not ordered to do such a thing.]
Prayuth: [raises voice] I don’t know! I don’t know how you receive [the orders]. But I guess you are all rich. Well, keep writing. Soon this country will just collapse. And then, you won’t have salaries anymore. The entire country won’t have any money. It’s up to you. Foreign countries are ready to invest and move forward. They ask me about everything: So what’s Thailand going to do, in tourism, transportation, and other issues. It’s only Thailand who keeps talking nonsense. No point at all. You will just create more conflict. I don’t know who you want to win. I don’t know. Have you ever thought: if I fail in this, what will happen to the country? Or do you think, to hell with it? The next government will do it anyway. We will be stuck like this.
I want to say to all of you: think again. I am not accusing anyone of anything, but I think it’s time to change your behavior and thoughts. Think of poor people. When will the rain come, when will the flood come, and how will we solve problems? I am thinking with them, but you bring in superfluous problems from above with below. In the end, we cannot fix anything. You have disrupted and brought down the whole system. It doesn’t matter how many reforms or coups there are. There’s no point. Things will be the same. This is the homework that I want all of you to think about.