Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said yesterday that having the country under martial law almost six months after the coup did not make him happy, but said the measure was necessary.
He said the longer the law is enforced, the less happy it makes him. But it was sadly necessary, he insisted.
"We should have sympathy for Myanmar. It has 135 ethnic groups across the country - that's their challenge. Just like them, we need to impose martial law.
"Am I happy? No, I'm not. The longer it is in place, the more unhappy I become. Yet, it's necessary," the premier said while presiding over the start of the National Defence College's Class 57.
His speech was on the "Role of State and Private Sectors in Maintaining National Security".
He also called on the press to not query this situation too often. "The more you ask me, the more likely it is that you won't get an answer," he said.
The government has come under mounting pressure from different groups, including businesses and academics, to lift martial law.
The PM said he was not angry at five university students who held up their fists in an anti-coup gesture on Wednesday while he delivered a speech at Khon Kaen's Provincial Hall.
"I was not angry. I am here to make changes and lay the foundation for future generations, or our children and grandchildren will not be able to survive," he said.
The five students and their parents met with military officers at a Khon Kaen Army camp yesterday, and were released later without being charged.
Gothom Arya, director of Mahidol University's Peace Studies and Development Centre, said yesterday that Prayut should focus on larger issues instead of small groups of protesters who make symbolic gestures.
The peace advocate said he did not think small-time protesters pose any threat to the government, as their goal is not to remove the junta from power.
Police yesterday detained three university students at Scala and Siam Paragon cinemas for protesting against the coup with the "Hunger Games"-inspired three-finger salute. Two of the students are from Thammasat University and the other from Bangkok University.
Earlier yesterday, some 20 police surrounded by dozens of journalists, gathered near the Scala, where screening of the latest sequel of the "Hunger Games" series was cancelled, Agence France-Presse reported. But there was no sign of protest, an AFP reporter said.
Meanwhile, Navy chief Admiral Kraisorn Chansuvanit said yesterday it was normal for some groups to disagree with the government. He called on these people to cooperate with the administration by forgetting about feuds in the past and to let the country move forward.
Interior Minister General Anupong Paochinda also said that there was nothing unusual about anti-coup protests. "It's normal for people to see things differently. I don't think we should mind," he said.
Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan said he was not concerned about anti-coup protests, as he did not think they would expand.