Update: Prayuth apologized Friday afternoon for “the crude words” said this morning. “I must apologize, because sometimes I slip. I didn’t criticize everyone, but there are some bad people out there. I meant it for them. Sometimes I just get so angry.”
BANGKOK — Junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha tore into reporters in abrasive language Friday, reiterating that he would not step down ahead of March’s general election, saying “oust me if you dare, jerks.”
Gen. Prayuth had taken the dais following a briefing on junta accomplishments when he preempted any questions about whether he would resign with an angry rebuke. Making no effort to mask his anger and irritation, he said no democratic or communist leader had ever done so.
“Remember my words, in any country around this world, democratic or communist, no government leader has ever quit for an election. Barack Obama, the former US president … or Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has quit? Answer me!” he said.
He continued his unprovoked outburst by referring to the press as “meung,” a vulgar term of address.
“Don’t try so hard to chase people away. … This is what the law says. Oust me if you dare, jerks! Oust me if you can! I’m not challenging you, but I’m not quitting,” he went on, his temper flaring.
On Twitter, #OustMeIfYouDareJerks quickly leaped to become the No.1 top-trending hashtag as of Friday afternoon, with most comments expressing frustration with Prayuth’s history of coarse language that’s generally frowned upon in Thai discourse.
“His maturity is even lower than an elementary school student’s,” user @Yinglove_tigger wrote.
“Being stupid is bad enough. He’s both stupid and vulgar,” wrote @Otttpang.
Prayuth has come into criticism since he opted not to go into a caretaker role after elections were called, as the democratically elected leaders of the past have done. His decision was consistent with previous coup leaders who have refused to do so.
The retired general’s famously short fuse has led to repeated outbursts during speeches and press briefings since he seized power in 2014. His garrulous comments can veer off script into angry and personal rants. In recent years he has threatened to punch his critics in the mouth, yelled a fisherman asking him questions and “joked” about executing reporters. From time to time, he renews his vows to rein in his fury.
Here’s an unofficial translation of his comments today at the Government House:
“If you’re going to ask me again about the elections. You just can’t ask about anything else. I’d just say that the principles I have to consider on whether I’m going to resign from the premiership, have nothing to do with whether I’ll accept the nomination from a political party as a PM candidate.
“Remember my words, in any country around this world, democratic or communist, no government leader has ever quit for an election. Barack Obama, the former US president who also ran for a second term, or Chinese President Xi Jinping – who has quit? Answer me! Don’t write such nonsense thing again. This is about principle. Besides, the constitution, the rule of law, and traditions or ethics of elections worldwide, none of it says a PM candidate has to quit from an administrative position.
“Don’t try so hard to chase people away. You chase this one and they quit, and then you chase a prime minister away. This is what the law says. Oust me if you dare, jerks! Oust me if you can! I’m not challenging you, but I’m not quitting. The Democrats, Abhisit Vejjajiva lost the 2011 elections to Yingluck Shinawatra. Why did they lose? They were the government, why did they lose? It means that being the government shouldn’t give any significant advantages. It depends on whether they do a good job or not. If not, the people won’t vote for them.”