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Thai Leader Threatens New Takeover: The TV Soaps

Thailand's Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, at the government house in Bangkok earlier this month. Prayuth, who seized power in May, has threatened to personally take over the writing of soap operas on Thai television. Sakchai Lalit/AP hide caption

toggle caption Sakchai Lalit/AP

Thailand's Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, at the government house in Bangkok earlier this month. Prayuth, who seized power in May, has threatened to personally take over the writing of soap operas on Thai television.

Sakchai Lalit/AP

Thailand's coup leader turned prime minister is not happy with the daily fare of infidelity and violence that is a staple of the country's television soap operas — and he's prepared to write the scripts himself if that's what it takes.

Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, the army chief who staged a coup in May against the elected government, says he wants scripts that encourage harmony in society.

"I have ordered that scripts be written, including plays on reconciliation, on tourism and on Thai culture," Prayuth told reporters on Friday, according to Voice of America. "They are writing plots at the moment and if they can't finish it I will write it myself," he said of a team of government-appointed writers.

Taking a personal interest in the country's entertainment programming is only the latest in a number of moves by Prayuth since the coup that have struck many as ranging from heavy-handed to downright odd.

It's not even the first time that Prayuth has sought to put his artistic stamp on the country's cultural life. Soon after seizing power from the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, he ordered a campaign "to bring happiness to the people," complete with a patriotic ballad he wrote himself, featuring the reassuring lyrics: "We offer to take care and protect you with our hearts" and "give us a little more time."

Orwellian as that may have seemed to some, for good measure, the regime also banned George Orwell's book 1984.

When anti-coup activists handed out sandwiches at their gatherings (and began using the phrase "sandwich party" as code for their clandestine meetings), state-run newspapers warned people against eating sandwiches. Similarly, the three-fingered salute featured in The Hunger Games movies, which became another covert symbol for opposition to the coup, was also banned.

More recently, Prayuth — who "has taken to giving regular TV appearances in which he bemoans the state of Thai society and outlines his simplistic, homespun solutions," according to Timeaccused his enemies of using black magic against him.

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