Members of Thailand’s Government House press pool were left scratching their heads on Monday after Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha brought a cardboard copy of himself to a press conference.
Prayuth briefly spoke with reporters after he attended an event to promote Children’s Day, but evaded all further questions about political matters by bringing out his life-sized cardboard lookalike and propping it up behind the microphone.
“If you want to ask any questions on politics or conflict,” he said, “ask this guy.”
He then turned around and walked away from reporters, who exchanged awkward laughter and puzzled looks.
The general turned prime minister will still hold a weekly press conference on Tuesday, deputy government spokesman Werachon Sukondhapatipak told news agency dpa. He added that the move was intended to be a joke.
However, critics of the junta thought the stunt was no laughing matter.
“I don’t think this is funny at all. If you’re a prime minister but you’re not ready to talk politics, you should step down. Both leaders and reporters are crazy,” Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a prominent critic of Prayuth’s government, said on his Facebook page.
Prayuth, a general who seized power of the southeast Asian country in a bloodless coup in 2014, is known for his bizarre and sometimes threatening interactions with the media.
In 2014, he patted a sound technician’s head and rubbed his ear as the journalist kneeled in front of him while holding microphone during a press briefing. The incident lasted for several minutes. Prayuth also once flung a banana peel at camera men and threatened, with humor, to execute journalists who criticized the junta.
His government, filled with military leaders, enjoyed public support when he took power for ending a period of violent street politics. However, as Prayuth’s government continues, criticism of the junta’s lack of transparency and its repressive policies has grown.
Prayuth promised to hold elections in November. That promise is rather familiar; Thailand has not had any elections since the May 2014 coup.
rs/msh (AP, dpa)