Thailand’s prime minister, apparently tired of answering questions about “politics or conflict,” walked away from reporters and told them to direct their inquiries to a cardboard cutout of himself.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha had been speaking to reporters outside the Government House in Bangkok on Monday when an aide installed the life-sized cutout in front of the microphone, reported the BBC.
“If you want to ask any questions on politics or conflict, ask this guy,” Prayuth said of the cutout, which shows him in a dark suit with his arm extended in a handshaking gesture. Prayuth, an army general who took power in a bloodless military coup in 2014, then sauntered away with a farewell wave.
The bizarre deflection prompted “bemused looks and awkward laughter” among the reporters, according to The Associated Press.
It doesn’t appear that the cutout faced any questions following Prayuth’s departure. People were later seen posing for photographs with the image. Prayuth has been promising to hold nationwide elections, but has repeatedly postponed the vote.
Prayuth has made headlines in the past for anti-media behavior. In 2014, he infamously threatened to “smack” a reporter with a “podium” after getting annoyed at a question. Later that year, he threw a banana peel at a cameraman during a press conference, and was caught on film at another press event “stroking the head and gently tugging the ear of a journalist.” In 2015, the prime minister darkly joked that his government would “probably just execute” journalists who did “not report the truth.”
Before his abrupt departure, Prayuth had been speaking to reporters about the country’s Children’s Day festivities planned for Saturday. According to Reuters, the cutout, along with 16 other life-sized cutouts of the prime minister, will be displayed when kids visit the prime minister’s official residence and office.
Human Rights Watch on Monday condemned Prayuth’s stunt, calling it another show of contempt for “media criticism and scrutiny.”
After ducking reporters, the prime minister met with children at the Government House, reported the Bangkok Post. He told the young people that they “should not detest politics.”
Thailand needs to “create a new generation of politicians,” he said.