Bangkok: Thai junta chief and Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has said the coup staged by the army was aimed at saving democracy and made it clear that he will not lift the martial law as it could lead to political turmoil.
"Thai democracy will never die, because I'm a soldier with a democratic heart. I have taken over the power because I want democracy to live on," he was quoted as saying by the Nation newspaper today.
He claimed that the situation in Thailand was unique, as nowhere else was a coup staged to restore democracy.
"We are building democracy every day. I did not seize power to give money away to this or that person or take it as my own property," said Gen Prayut, who seized power last year ousting Yingluck Shinawatra, the country's first woman prime minister, in a bloodless military coup.
"Although this government came from a seizure of power, it happened because there was no (effective) government (at the time). Though there was a government, it was as good as not having one. Where was Yingluck Shinawatra? She couldn't perform her duty because she had been removed by the Constitution Court," Gen Prayut said.
Insisting that the people should recognise the fact that Thailand is still free, Gen Prayut said he could have exercised his power as junta leader and placed former premier Yingluck under house arrest or stopped her from meeting certain people, but he chose not to do so.
Prayut said 21 envoys had met with the current administration and understood the situation in Thailand.
His remarks came in the wake of comments made by visiting US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel who urged the Thai government to lift martial law and described Yingluck's impeachment by the National Legislative Assembly as being "politically driven".
Prayut has denied that the impeachment against Yingluck was politically motivated.
Deputy Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai said the statements made by Russel had caused "wounds" to Thais.
He was speaking after meeting with Patrick Murphy, charge d'affairs of the US Embassy in Thailand at the Foreign Ministry. The meeting was held at the order of Prime Minister.
Don said Murphy was "invited" to the meeting to brief about the political situation in the country.
Russel visited Thailand on Monday and met with former premiers Yingluck?and Abhisit Vejjajiva?as well as Foreign Minister Tanasak Patimapagorn.