Tongue-Thai’ed! – Special Edition: Top 10 things the junta said in 2014

Originally published at Siam Voices on December 31, 2014

This is part XXVIII of “Tongue-Thai’ed!”, an ongoing series where we collect the most baffling, ridiculous, confusing, outrageous and appalling quotes from Thai politicians and other public figures. Check out all past entries here.

An image of the military junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha is displayed on a giant screen during the army-organised concert at Siam Paragon shopping mall on June 26, 2014. (Pic: Khaosod/Facebook)
An image of the military junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha is displayed on a giant screen during the army-organised concert at Siam Paragon shopping mall on June 26, 2014. (Pic: Khaosod/Facebook)

As you may have noticed, we here at Siam Voices have used our light-hearted Tongue-Thai’ed!-section not as much in 2014 as we would have liked to, since the coup and the ongoing authoritarian rule by the military junta were mostly no laughing matter. However, the generals now in charge of nearly every aspect of life in Thailand are not shy when it comes to sharing their ideas to the population – with varying results.

Former army-chief, now Prime Minister and junta leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha has always been an outspoken man (as seen pre-coup here, here, here, here and here) and had a lot to say since the takeover of power over seven months ago. And while many things that the junta said have serious and dire implications for the foreseeable future, one can’t help laugh at the generals’ (delusions of) grand(eur) visions. You simply can’t make this stuff up – hm, which would explain why the satirical Not the Nation hasn’t written anything new in a while…

So without further ado, here’s the definitively incomplete look at the top 10 things the Thai military junta said this past year, ranked in reverse order of ridiculousness/outlandishness:

10. General Prayuth Chan-ocha – As an example that he seems to know pretty much everything, he offered to improve the popular, but infamous Thai TV soap operas and he knows exactly where the problems are:

“I have ordered that scripts be written, including plays on reconciliation, on tourism and on Thai culture,” Prayuth told reporters. “They are writing plots at the moment and if they can’t finish it I will write it myself,” he said of a team of government-appointed writers.

Thai PM bemoans divisive soap operas, offers to write better ones“, Reuters, September 26, 2014

9. Lt.-Gen. Suchart Pongput – The secretary-general of the junta’s media watchdog has his very own definition of press freedom:

“Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the Prime Minister and NCPO leader, has never censored the media. We are open, but please stay within the limits. [We] don’t want any colour. [You media] must report news positively. Sometimes, headlines lead to discomfort. Please don’t make them too harsh, although I understand that [headlines] are the highlights, but please soften them. I’d like to ask for the cooperation of columnists too. You editors please remind them for me,” the Daily News quoted Suchai as saying.

Thai junta: we don’t limit media freedom but freedom must be within limits“, Prachatai English, November 14, 2014

8. Admiral Narong Pipatanasai – The former navy chief and now Education Minister overseeing the junta’s education “reform” found an unlikely kindred spirit when he met the North Korean Ambassador to Thailand:

According to the Office of the Minister Newsline, Admiral Narong Pipatanasai, the Thai Education Minister, (…) met with Mun Song Mo, the Ambassador of the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea on Friday at Government House. The two agreed that the educational systems of both countries are similar. The similar elements include free 12-year basic education. Moreover, a few students from North Korea come to Thailand to study.

Thai Education Minister: Thai education resembles North Korea“, Prachatai English, November 17, 2014

7. General Prayuth Chan-ocha, again – As persistent criticism of the military government remains, the junta has moved against universities and detained academics for holding political forums. Amidst that, General Prayuth gave his reasoning why there shouldn’t be any critical discussion now:

“Please understand that I don’t come from an election. I’m well aware of that. So please put on hold all political criticism and forums on politics,” said the prime minister, who came to administrative power through a military coup on May 22.

‘Unelected’ Prayut warns against political forums“, Bangkok Post, September 19, 2014

6. Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul – After the murder of two British tourists in September and following messy police investigation that resulted in the rather suspicious arrest of two Burmese men (the trial started on December 26), the Tourism Minister’s had some novel ideas on how to ensure tourist safety:

Under the new plan, Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said hotels would hand out wristbands to tourists on check-in that would show a “serial number that matches their I.D. and shows the contact details of the resort they are staying in”. It was not immediately clear whether tourists would be obliged to wear the wristbands. (…)

Minister Kobkarn added Tuesday: “The next step would be some sort of electronic tracking device but this has not yet been discussed in detail.”

Thailand considers ID wristbands for tourists“, Asian Correspondent, September 30, 2014

5. General Prayuth Chan-ocha, once more – After the murder of the aforementioned two British tourists, it was critical that the Thai military government reacted to this murder case with the appropriate sensitivity in order to show the world how serious his administration was taking this bloody crime. Unfortunately though, it didn’t turn out that way:

“There are always problems with tourist safety. They think our country is beautiful and is safe so they can do whatever they want, they can wear bikinis and walk everywhere,” Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who is also the army chief, told government officials. But “can they be safe in bikinis… unless they are not beautiful?” he said, addressing the issue of tourist safety in a speech broadcast live on television.

Thai PM questions if ‘tourists in bikinis’ safe after murders“, AFP, September 17, 2014

He would later apologise for his flippant remark.

4. Maj.-Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd – In his quest for regaining international recognition, General Prayuth took his first major trip to the West to attend the Asia-Europe Meeting in Milan. However, there were protesters telling him that he’s not welcome. The junta spokesman sees this differently – that is, if he has seen anything at all:

“There have been claims on social media and a number of websites, especially on a website called Thai E News, about images that attempt to depict a protest against Gen. Prayuth and his delegates,” said Maj.Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd. “Let me stress that these claims are false.”

Govt Insists Images of Milan Anti-Prayuth Protest Are Fake“, Khaosod English, October 17, 2014

Quite a few would disagree with him later.

3. General Thanasak Patimaprakorn – The junta’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister has recently summed up his work to regain said international recognition – and he was quite proud of it:

“คนทั่วโลกมี 6 พันกว่าล้านคน เราได้แล้วประมาณ 4700 ล้านคนที่เป็นฝ่ายเรา 100 เปอร์เซนต์ (…)” พล.อ.ธนศักดิ์ กล่าว

“Of the 6 billion people on this world, 4.7 billion already support us 100 per cent (…),” Gen. Thanasak said.

รมต.ต่างประเทศ เชื่อคนมากกว่าครึ่งโลกเห็นด้วยกับรัฐบาล ยันต่างชาติเชื่อมั่นไทย“, Matichon, December 25, 2014

2. General Thanasak Patimaprakorn, again –  A couple days later, he backed up the previous diplomatic claim with some more breath-taking math:

พลเอกธนะศักดิ์ ปฏิมาประกร (…) กล่าวถึงการทำงานของรัฐบาล ช่วงที่ผ่านมา ว่า ได้ได้เดินหน้าตามแผนโรดแมปที่วางเอาไว้ ทำให้ประเทศต่างๆทั่วโลก ร้อยละ 85 เชื่อมั่น

General Thanasak Patimaprakorn (…) referring to the government’s recent performance, said that it has progressed according to the roadmap [and] of the all the countries worldwide, 85 per cent are confident [with us]

“พล.อ.ธนะศักดิ์” ระบุ 85% ประเทศทั่วโลกเชื่อมั่นรัฐบาลไทย“, Spring News, December 30, 2014

And the number 1 is from… you guessed it…Prime Minister Prayuth!

He was referring to the media’s suggestions for him to try to improve his personality. “I would like to thank [the media] for warning and suggestions. I won’t change my personality because I am a person with multiple personalities,” Prayut said.

Prayut admits he has ‘multiple personalities’“, The Nation, November 3, 2014

Honorable mention: While not necessarily a quote but there were two incidents that shows General Prayuth’s rather sardonic relationship with the press:

Prayuth Chan-o-cha, the head of the Thai junta, was caught on camera by Thairath throwing a banana peel at a cameraman’s head in front of the media and several others during a public event on Wednesday.

The mocking action from the junta head and now Thai Prime Minister seemed to draw laughter from the crowd at the event, who had probably witnessed his unique mocking style before.

In late November, he was also recorded on camera pulling the ears and ruffling the hair of a reporter while the reporter was reaching out with his microphone and kneeling down so that he would not be in the camera frame.

Earlier in late September, he mocked a journalist during a press conference at Government House with his now iconic sentence “I’ll smack you with the podium” after he was asked whether he intended to be PM from a coup d’état only, but not from an election.

Thai junta leader throws banana peel at cameraman’s head“, Prachatai English, December 24, 2014