Thai Leader Threatens to 'Execute' Journalists Who Report 'Divisive' News

150325-TH-prayuth-620 Thai Prime Minster Prayuth Chan-o-cha walks by reporters after landing at the international airport in Naypyidaw, Burma, Nov. 11, 2014.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha on Wednesday threatened to “execute” members of the media who report too critically about the junta-led government and other Thailand-related stories.

"You don't have to support the government, but you should report the truth," Reuters quoted the former Thai army chief as telling reporters in Bangkok.

His comments came during a testy exchange with journalists before he boarded a flight to Brunei.

When a reporter asked Prayuth whether the government would shut down the media, the general replied, “Don’t pick a fight with me, don’t make me go to war with the media,” Khaosod English reported.

“We’ll probably just execute them,” an unsmiling Prayuth told the press pool that was trailing him, referring to journalists who veered from the official line, according to Reuters.

Slave labor-produced seafood?

On Wednesday, the prime minister also took issue with media reports alleging that human trafficking and slavery were tied to Thailand’s important seafood industry. Thailand is among the world biggest exporters of fish and fishery products, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“Please don’t escalate the news,” Khaosod quoted Prayuth as saying.

“The media should consider the impact the news will have on the country,” he added. “It may cause problems and affect national security … If this news gets widely published, [it could raise] problems of human trafficking and IUU [Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing].”

According to Khaosod, Prayuth said the government would summon Thapanee Ietsrichai, a local reporter, for her reporting for Channel 3 television about Thai men languishing aboard alleged slave ships.

Prayuth’s outburst came after the Associated Press published an investigative report on Tuesday, which alleged that people – mostly Burmese nationals – were being enslaved in Benjina, a remote town in eastern Indonesia, as part of the supply chain feeding Southeast Asia’s seafood industry.

The people interviewed by AP had been trafficked to Indonesia via Thailand and forced to fish, the investigation alleged. Part of their catch is processed at factories in Thailand, AP reported.

Lashing out pro-Shinawatra news outlets

The junta headed by Prayuth seized power in a coup last May against the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. When it fell from power, her administration was mired in political turmoil amid massive anti-government street demonstrations in Bangkok.

During his reported outburst on Wednesday, Prayuth also took aim at Matichon, a Thai-language daily newspaper, accusing it of backing Yingluck’s brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who also had been deposed in a coup.

"Don't think I don't know that your writing is pro the previous administration," he told a Matichon reporter at the airport, according to Reuters.

“Write your news well,” Khaosod quoted the prime minister as saying about Matichon. “Don’t write news that supports the other side too much.”

By BenarNews staff with details from news reports.


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