BANGKOK: Thailand’s junta leader on Monday threatened to tighten controls of the media unless they stop “presenting news” about former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, after photographs of the billionaire cuddling a panda went viral.
Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup as prime minister and lives abroad to avoid jail for a corruption conviction, sits at the epicenter of Thailand’s near decade-long political rupture.
His sister Yingluck was also booted out of office as premier by a controversial court ruling just before the military again seized power in May.
Thaksin is loathed by the Bangkok elite and their royalist supporters in the army and judiciary.
But the family are adored in their northern heartlands, who have elected Shinawatra-led or aligned governments to power in every poll since 2001.
“Do not present news [about Thaskin]as everyone knows that he has violated the law,” Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, who also heads the military council in charge of Thailand, told reporters on Monday.
“Please do not make us have to use laws, power or force,” added Prayut, who has already imposed martial law across the kingdom and sweeping curbs on political discussions in the media and society at large.
His comments came after photographs emerged of Thaksin in China cuddling a baby panda, accompanied by his sister.
Thai media widely used the images over the weekend and by Monday they had garnered more than 280,000 “likes” on Yingluck’s Facebook page.