The Official Site of The Prime Minister of Thailan photo

BANGKOK, Thailand -- The angry, frustrated, talkative general who
seized Thailand in a military coup last May, said on Monday (March 23)
if he had "complete power" he would have "a firing squad" execute
people, but now he suffers insomnia because Thais are demanding

In 2003, Thailand stopped roping convicts to a cross with arms
outstretched, to be shot in the back by a lone executioner, and
instead began lethal injections.

"I can't even stop people from opposing me at this moment," Gen.
Prayuth Chan-ocha said in a speech at a Federation of Thai Industries
convention here in Bangkok.

"If I genuinely had complete power, I would have imprisoned [critics]
or handed them to a firing squad. It would be over, I wouldn't have to
wake up at night like this.

"Today there are some people who love me, but there are also many
people who hate me," he said from a podium in front of a gigantic
screen which vividly projected Gen. Prayuth speaking,

The general, who also played a role in a bloodless 2006 coup, has
expressed increasingly unusual statements in recent weeks, causing
confusion, concern and criticism.

Muzzled by Gen. Prayuth's martial law and use of military courts to
put civilian dissidents on trial, people are responding through
Internet's social media to the coup leader's surprising quotes.

One online Photoshopped portrait shows Gen. Prayuth wearing rouge and
dressed as a frilly Marie Antoinette, complete with an 18th century
powdered bouffant wig, while saying: "Let them eat limes."

That meme appeared after Gen. Prayuth talked about the current problem
of higher prices for limes, which are a key ingredient in Thai

"From now on, I would like every household to grow lime trees for
their own consumption, so they won't have to complain about the
increasing price," Gen. Prayuth said on March 17.

"You have to learn to take care of yourself."

In his keynote speech in Bangkok opening the "Asia in a Borderless
World" Global Forum for Pennsylvania University's Wharton School on
March 13, Gen. Prayuth said a peeved Washington might block him from
visiting America.

Four days after local media reported Gen. Prayuth's complaint, he
said, "I was only joking, because many attendees at the conference
were American.

"I teased them on whether or not they would bar me from going to the
U.S., while I do not bar them from doing business with me, and they
laughed," he said.

"Was this really the place to make a crack about possibly not being
able to get a visa to the United States?" wrote disappointed business
columnist Umesh Pandey in Monday's (March 23) Bangkok Post.

"The joke was on you, Dear Leader," the respected columnist said,
using an honorific popular among satirists in Thailand who liken Gen.
Prayuth to North Korea's eccentric dictator.

"I was earlier asked by a reporter, 'What are the results of the
government's work?' I almost punched the person who questioned me, in
the face," Gen. Prayuth said earlier in March.

"The government has done a lot so far. Don't they see it?"

Others in his ruling junta are meanwhile expressing weird decrees,
including his Culture Ministry which recently warned Thai females
would be imprisoned for five years if they were identified in any
online photographs exposing their "underboobs".

Many Thais regard Gen. Prayuth's sensational remarks as his awkward
way of trying to project a disciplinarian, tough-talking, military

Others are tuning out, especially during his weekly lectures which he
broadcasts simultaneously on several Thai TV channels every Friday

Restaurants, bars and other public venues often show him repeatedly
rising and lowering his thick eyebrows while stiffly speaking on their
big digital screens above patrons' tables, but the sound is sometimes
turned off and replaced by the establishments' music.

Asked why the owners do not switch off the broadcast, one
pork-and-chicken cafe manager replied:

"I keep it on because after he is finished, we want to watch the next
program, and we don't know how long he is going to speak."

Elsewhere, in eastern Thailand's Isaan region, a middle-aged Thai
mother recently showed off her daughter's ability to spontaneously
recite Gen. Prayuth's "12 Values" which the general told all schools
to order children to memorize.

When questioned, the mother and other parents in her group said they
did not think it was any problem for young minds to learn mandatory
lessons emphasizing Gen. Prayuth's 12 simplistic ways to be obedient
and compliant.

The eight-year-old girl's performance instead proved her fine ability
to recall information, her proud mother said.


Richard S. Ehrlich is a Bangkok-based journalist from San Francisco,
California, reporting news from Asia since 1978.