THAILAND, Nov 25 – Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-O-Cha today threatened to bar ousted premier Yingluck Shinawatra from travelling abroad, a day after the publication of her first media interview since May’s coup. Yingluck, who was booted out of office by a controversial court ruling just before the army takeover, has been banned from leaving Thailand without the junta’s permission along with hundreds of other politicians, activists, academics and journalists who were briefly detained after the coup.
The ex-premier has since been allowed to travel overseas on two occasions on the condition she adopts a low-profile, but after the publication of the interview Monday, Prayuth threatened to revoke that freedom. “I am considering it and have asked my security staff to look into it,” Prayuth told reporters after a weekly cabinet meeting in response to a question on whether the junta would bar Yingluck from travelling abroad following Monday’s interview.
“We have clear rules. If something triggers chaos or unrest we have measures… If she wants to go overseas then she will not be able to go,” he said. In an interview published Monday the Bangkok Post quoted Yingluck describing her removal from office was as though “suddenly, someone points a gun at my head and tells me to get out of the car while I’m at the wheel driving the people forward”.
Prayuth hit out at her remarks, saying to reporters: “Who pointed the gun at her?” In July the junta allowed Yingluck to travel to Europe and the United States and last month she visited Japan and China, meeting her older brother and fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra during both trips.
May’s coup was the latest chapter in Thailand’s long-drawn political conflict, which broadly pits a Bangkok-based middle class and royalist elite, backed by parts of the military and judiciary, against rural and working-class voters loyal to Thaksin. A Shinawatra-led or aligned government has been brought to power in every poll since 2001.
After months of retreating from the limelight, Yingluck and Thaksin have started to creep back into public life, much to the consternation of the junta. Recent photographs of the siblings cuddling pandas during their trip to China’s Sichuan province went viral, prompting Prayuth to threaten tighter controls over the media unless they stopped “presenting news” about Thaksin.