Rights group criticises Thai PM’s cardboard cutout gesture

Thailand's Prime Minster Prayuth Chan-ocha speaks to reporters next to a cardboard cut-out of himself at the government house in Bangkok, Thailand January 8, 2018. Picture taken January 8, 2018. Dailynews via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. THAILAND OUT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE.

Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, known for his temperamental outbursts, has adopted a unique tactic to avoid tricky questions from reporters — leave a cardboard cutout of himself for reporters to quiz.

But the gesture has been criticised by Human Rights Watch which said it shows the military junta chief’s “contempt of media criticism” in a country yet to restore democracy since a 2014 coup.

Seventeen life-sized cutouts of Prayuth have been set up around the government compound ahead of Children’s Day on Saturday. They show Prayuth in various outfits including sportswear, work suits and traditional Thai attire.

On Monday, Prayuth spoke briefly at Government House before a cutout of Prayuth in a suit and tie was brought out. Prayuth, who is known for his abstruse sense of humour, then told journalists to refer any questions to the cardboard cutout.

“Ask this guy,” he said.

Reaction to the bizarre gesture was largely muted on social media on Tuesday but Human Rights Watch said it added to a “long list of his bizarre and bullying reactions to reporters”.

“Thailand’s junta leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha continues to show contempt of media criticism and scrutiny,” Sunai Phasuk, senior Thailand researcher at Human Rights Watch, told Reuters.