As bizarre as it may sound, the Thailand Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha placed a cut-out of himself in front of the microphone in order to avoid the questions at a news conference. Prayuth had talked to the reporters from some time outside Government House in Bangkok before the life-sized replica was brought out. “If you want to ask any questions on politics or conflict, ask this guy,” he said before walking away. Prayuth is known for his temperamental outbursts and his latest 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.
Prayuth had led a military coup in 2014. He was later named as the prime minister that year and the government had promised to hold nationwide elections, but they have been repeatedly been pushed back. 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.
This isn’t the first time when Prayuth is in the news because of his actions against the reporters. In 2015, he warned journalists that he had the power to execute them. In another, separate incident he threw a banana peel at a reporter.
Thailand’s prime minister has adopted a unique tactic to avoid tricky questions – point reporters to a cardboard cutout of himself https://t.co/fULqYp87Bw pic.twitter.com/PxvTmMvBOe
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) January 9, 2018
“Even when the junta promises to hold an election, there is no open space for media freedom,” said Sunai.
It is speculated that the action was taken as the reporters might have asked Prayuth questions about issues including the elections, rumbling violence in the south, or the severe lese majeste laws under which numerous people have been jailed for insulting the monarchy.
Interestingly, the incident took place amid the preparations for Children’s Day. In Thailand, Children’s Day is celebrated annually on the second Saturday of January. On the day, armed forces open up military barracks to children to let them pose with weapons and tanks. Children are also invited to sit at the prime minister’s work desk inside Government House.