Thai junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha lashed out at journalists yesterday, saying he would "probably just execute" those who did "not report the truth", in an outburst aimed at the media.
Last month Prayuth said he had the power to shut down news outlets. Yesterday, he took an even harsher line.
"We'll probably just execute them," said Prayuth, without a trace of a smile, when asked how the junta would deal with critics not adhering to the official line.
"You don't have to support the government, but you should report the truth," the former army chief said, telling reporters to write in a way that bolsters national reconciliation.
Prayuth, who is also prime minister, heads the ruling junta or National Council for Peace and Order. He toppled the government of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra in a coup last May, which followed months of protests aimed at ousting her elected administration.
Known for his abrupt manner and impulsive remarks, Prayuth launched a crackdown on dissenters after seizing power in May. He has said Thailand is not ready to lift martial law, which gives the army sweeping powers, including arrest and detention.
In January the junta forced a German foundation to cancel a forum on press freedom saying Thailand was at a sensitive juncture. Since taking power, the junta imposed martial law, which bans all political gatherings.
Prayuth was particularly critical of the Thai-language Matichon daily newspaper, accusing it of siding with ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his allies.
"Don't think I don't know that your writing is pro the previous administration," he told a Matichon reporter. "The previous Interior Ministry bought many advertising spaces from you."
Since the army toppled Thaksin, Yingluck's elder brother, in a previous coup in 2006, Thailand has been sharply divided.
Thaksin's support comes largely from the rural and urban working class, but the traditional establishment in the capital and the south loathe Thaksin and accuse him of nepotism, cronyism and republican leanings, accusations he denies.
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition
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