THAILAND’S Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha on Monday chastised the country’s academics living abroad for criticising his government.
According to The Nation, Prayuth said these academics have been unfair in their comments against his administration, which he insisted has “many things for the country”.
In his keynote speech at the annual conference hosted by the National Economic and Social Development Board, Prayuth said his government has provided sound support for all levels of society in its effort to take the country forward. This includes medium-sized enterprises and the poor.
He did not single out names but Prayuth was likely referring to academics living overseas in political asylum and who have held public forums painting a negative picture of the government’s democracy and human rights record.
At the conference, Prayuth also slammed non-governmental organisations and the local media opposed to measures taken by the government. He said perception among critics that the government was helping the rich more than the poor was untrue.
In February, Human Rights Watch said the Thai junta has regularly blocked or disrupted public discussions on the political and human rights situation in the kingdom since the May 2014 coup. This, said the group, has halted public expression of differences in political opinions.
It said police and the military have used junta orders to cancel events for reports by HRW, Amnesty International, and the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.
The authorities, it added, have also banned many discussions at universities and other public venues about human rights, democracy, the monarchy, and the government’s performance.
“Thailand is clearly not on a path toward democracy when free speech is censored, criticism is punished, and political activity is prohibited even inside a university,” HRW’s Asia Director Brad Adams said.
Prayuth’s remarks on Monday was not his first time issuing a rebuke against academics critical of the military junta.
In November 2015, Prayuth, in response to a petition signed by 323 academics urging him to stop intimidating university lecturers and students who engage in political discussion and activism, said he would not be able to guarantee the safety of university lecturers who continue to criticise the military regime.
“If they want to engage in activism or whatever, it’s up to them. If they aren’t afraid of the laws, it’s up to them. I don’t know about them. If the people want to join them, and then get in trouble for it, it’s up to them.” Prayuth said, as quoted by Khaosod English.
“And if someone finds a gun and shoot them, or throws grenades at them, well, they have to live with that. If they aren’t afraid, it’s up to them.”