Thai coup leader endorsed by king, vows to restore stability

Thai army chief and coup leader Gen. Prayut Chan-Ocha said Monday he has received royal endorsement from King Bhumibol Adulyadej, legitimizing his chairmanship of a ruling council set up after the military's seizure of power last Thursday.

Prayut, who heads the National Council for Peace and Order, made the remarks at a press conference at which he also said restoring security and stability is his top priority, while giving no time frame for restoration of democracy.

The move came a day after the council warned hundreds of anticoup protesters who massed over the weekend that strong measures will be used against them -- and casualties may result -- if they continue to disobey orders not to gather.

Prayut said law enforcement will be strictly carried out.

Despite Prayut's warning, anti-coup activists vowed to come into the streets and stage rallies to protest the coup d'etat.

Prayut repeatedly stated the purpose of the coup was not to secure power for the military, but to ensure peace and stability in the country.

"I want the Thai people and foreigners to understand our intentions. We did it with pure intentions," he claimed.

The new ruler suggested the junta will eventually set up a body to deal with political reforms as well as an interim government and an interim legislature, but he gave no time frame.

Prayut insisted the coup-makers have driven the country's administration by fixing some problems, including making payments for farmers.

He was careful to deflect questions whether he would take the premiership in the interim government, saying one must be careful in using power.

"Everything is in process; we have to have a premier and Cabinet. One must be careful in using power. If you have much power, you should make yourself smaller," he said.

The coup-makers released deposed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Sunday and her political rival Suthep Thaugsuban earlier Monday.

Suthep led months of protests against Yingluck's elected government.