Thailand: Junta head says he can ‘do whatever’ without being held accountable
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Thailand: Junta head says he can ‘do whatever’ without being held accountable

THE LEADER of Thailand’s military junta has bragged he can “do whatever” without being held accountable, unlike the country’s previous democratically elected leaders.

When asked whether he should be held responsible for the billions of Thai Baht it cost the state to settle a dispute with an Australian mining company over his decision to end gold mining across Thailand in May 2016, Prayuth Chan-ocha said he was unaccountable because he held absolute power.

“Talking in terms of using the Article 44 in this country, I don’t have to be held accountable at all. I can do whatever,” he said as quoted by Khaosod English.

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“If talking in terms of arbitration law or international law, then we will have to fight the case … but when I use the Article 44, I don’t have to fear anything, because it protects me.”

Prayuth’s comments come just days after former democratically-elected Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra failed to appear in court. Yingluck was charged for negligence over a subsidised rice scheme which cost Thailand some US$8 billion when she was PM from 2011 to 2014.

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Yingluck greets supporters as she arrives at the Supreme Court in Bangkok, Thailand, on Aug 1, 2017. Source: Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha

If convicted, Yingluck faced a maximum jail term of 10 years. She has since fled the country.

On Tuesday, Prayuth rejected comparisons to Yingluck’s case, claiming “this government prioritises the people more (than Yingluck’s). As in many other cases, gains or losses are another story.”

SEE ALSO: Yingluck’s convenient Thai ‘escape’

“It’s a different story from the rice-pledging. That was corruption. You have to be able to distinguish,” he said.

The military seized power in a May 2014 coup it said was necessary to end months of unrest, including street protests aimed at ousting the populist, civilian government.

Yingluck’s brother and former PM Thaksin Shinawatra broke his silence this week, tweeting for the first time in two years. He compared the current, un-elected Thai regime to tyrants.