Former Army chief and coup leader General Prayut Chan-ocha made the cover of Time magazine this week, but hardly anyone in Thailand has been able to get a copy.
That’s because few outlets have stocked the magazine, reportedly because distributors feared its content could cause problems for stores that sell it.
The magazine features an interview with General Prayut, who has been prime minister since he seized power in May 2014 after months of street protests virtually paralyzed the government led by Yingluck Shinawatra. She had stepped down ahead of the coup after a court found she abused her power and has since fled abroad, like her brother Thaksin, who led the country from 2001 to 2006 before going into exile before being convicted on criminal corruption charges in 2008.
The Time report on Prayut, 64, seemed to initially be welcomed by the military government that has run the country for the past four years. But it appears a reference likening the top general to a former dictator – Field Marshall Sarit Thanarat, who led the country from 1959 to 1963 – may have convinced distributors and bookstores to play it safe and not stock the magazine, given the ruling junta’s strained relations with the media.
Prayut, who recently visited London to meet British Prime Minister Theresa May and Paris for talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, is under pressure to call an election after repeatedly setting back the date on when the country would return to democracy.
The general said prior to his departure that the coronation of new King Maha Vajiralongkorn would be staged prior to the election, but no dates have been announced yet. While Prayut was abroad, a senior minister said the poll, now tentatively scheduled for February, could be pushed back to May 2019.
Prayut was evasive when asked by Time if he would step down after the election: “This depends on the situation and the people, I have no control over this. It will be down to the democratic mechanism, the constitution, the election and so on,” he was quoted as saying.