Thai PM uses cardboard cutout to avoid journalists’ questions


BANGKOK: Thailand’s prime minister has found a novel way to avoid journalists’ questions: producing a life-sized cardboard cutout of himself and telling the reporters to quiz it instead of him.

At a press conference in Bangkok, Prayuth Chan-ocha appeared ready to take questions but then supervised an aide as the cutout was installed.

“If you want to ask any questions on politics or conflict,” he then told reporters, “ask this guy”.

He then turned on his heel and walked off, leaving the mock-up behind, to bemused looks and awkward laughter from the government house media pack.

The prime minister had earlier spoken to the media after attending an event promoting Thailand’s upcoming children’s day, but deployed his dodging tactic before anyone could ask him about a number of pressing political issues.

It is not the first time Prayuth — a general who seized power in a bloodless coup in 2014 — has dumbfounded the media. In the past he has fondled the ear of a sound technician during an impromptu news conference, flung a banana peel at cameramen, and threatened, with gruff humour, to execute any journalist who criticised his government.

When it took power, his junta enjoyed considerable public support for ending a prolonged period of often-violent street politics. But as his rule has stretched on, criticism of the government’s often-repressive policies and lack of transparency has grown.

Prayuth has promised elections in November, though he has made similar promises several times previously and then delayed the balloting.