Bangkok : Buoyed by a royal endorsement to run a politically unstable country, Thailand’s coup leader on Monday warned of a crackdown on people protesting military rule and vowed to hold elections as ‘soon as possible’ but refused to set a time frame.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha, dressed in a white uniform and flanked by more than a dozen other military officials, addressed reporters here, saying he had received a royal command from the country’s deeply revered King to head the ruling military council.    “I’m not here to argue with anyone. I want to bring everything out in the open and fix it,” Prayuth said in his first news conference since taking power last week.

“Everyone must help me…Do not criticise, do not create new problems. It’s no use,” he said. He issued a warning to the groups of protesters who have gathered in Bangkok in recent days to voice their opposition to the coup and call for democratic elections. “Right now there are people coming out to protest. So do you want to go back to the old days? I’m asking the people in the country, if you want it that way, then I will have to enforce the law,” Prayuth said.

The demonstrators, who numbered in the hundreds yesterday, have scuffled with soldiers in the streets. So far, the military has allowed the small-but-growing protests to take place, even though martial law forbids gatherings of more than five people. With more protests expected, Prayuth said the military would not tolerate public displays of dissent indefinitely as the situation was reaching a “boiling point”.

He urged people to stop demonstrating, warning that they risk a stricter enforcement of martial law and prosecution.

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