Coup leader Prayuth gets Thailand king's backing to run the country

General says he seized power to restore order and tells public not to 'create new problems'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 May, 2014, 1:20pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 May, 2014, 6:48pm

Bolstered by a royal endorsement yesterday to run the country after last week's coup, Thailand's junta leader warned citizens not to cause trouble, not to criticise and not to protest - or else face a return to the "old days" of street violence.

Dressed in a crisp white military uniform, General Prayuth Chan-ocha said he had seized power in order to restore order after seven months of violent confrontations and political turmoil between the now-ousted government and demonstrators who had called repeatedly for the army to intervene.

"I'm not here to argue with anyone. I want to bring everything out in the open and fix it," Prayuth said at his first news conference since taking power last Thursday.

"Everyone must help me," he said, before adding: "Do not criticise, do not create new problems. It's no use."

Watch: Angry Thai anti-coup protests despite junta warnings

The warning came as an aide to former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra said she had been released from military custody. Yingluck, who was forced from power by a controversial court ruling earlier this month, had been held at an undisclosed location without a telephone since Friday.

In a gruff, 20-minute appearance, Prayuth warned the media and social media users to avoid doing anything that could exacerbate the conflict.

Earlier yesterday, King Bhumibol Adulyadej officially endorsed Prayuth to run the country in a royal command that called for "reconciliation among the people".

Television footage showed Prayuth, standing to attention in the crisp white dress required for royal occasions, as the palace proclamation was read out. He then knelt down before a full-size portrait of the king during the ceremony at army headquarters in Bangkok.

The monarch, 86, who was not present, lives at his seaside palace in the coastal town of Hua Hin and rarely speaks in public nowadays.

After the speech, the general took only two questions from reporters - about plans for a new administration.

Asked if he would appoint a new prime minister, Prayuth replied gruffly: "Don't ask about something that hasn't arrived. It's already in the plans. Take it easy. There will be one."

Asked when elections would be held, Prayuth said that could happen when the crisis ends. It "depends on the circumstances", he said. "I don't have a schedule ... quickly as possible."