Thai PM and coup-maker: Military power should not be checked

Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha during an interview with Singapore media in Bangkok.
Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha during an interview with Singapore media in Bangkok.ST PHOTO: NIRMAL GHOSH

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who staged a coup last year and is now overseeing potentially major constitutional changes in the Kingdom said on Wednesday that the military's power should not be curbed.

"I wish this coup is the last," he said in an interview with Singapore media, but added that the solution was not to rein in the military. "You cannot limit it, because the military is the one that always looks after the country."

General Prayut's coup was the Kingdom's 12th since 1932, when it became a constitutional monarchy. Thailand's generals and military have dominated politics for much of the past 80 decades since. 

The former army chief now heads a military-dominated Cabinet whose decisions are endorsed by a military-stacked legislature.

Although military rule has kept a lid on the Kingdom's long-running political conflict for now, critics argue it will do nothing to solve it as the coup was staged to protect the interests of the elite, on one side of the conflict, against the other side, which include the rural masses.

The premier, who visited Singapore last week, said Singaporeans praised the peaceful and stable situation in Thailand now and asked him if he could sustain it.

"I answered that I firmly believe that even when I am not here anymore, Thailand is ready to move forward into the future to achieve sustainable stability," he said.

Gen Prayut came to power in May last year (2014) and soon laid out a 15-month road map involving - among other things - the drafting of a new constitution, at the end of which he would make way for fresh elections to be held. Since then, the projected date of elections has been pushed back to late next year (2016) in order to allow a referendum to be held on the Kingdom's 20th Constitution. 

While in Singapore, the premier told Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong he did not intend to run for election.

"My job is to reform the country," he said. "Even if I am not in office anymore, I will look at how my successor is doing... if he or she is not doing well, I will do my civilian duty.

"My duty as a citizen is to cast my vote, give my voice in a referendum, and suggest solutions to the member of parliament I elected."

tanhy@sph.com.sg