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Thai Premier To Reporters: Talk To The Cardboard Cut-Out

In this image from video, Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha (left) waves and walks off as a life-sized cardboard cut-out figure of himself is placed next to the microphone during a media conference in Bangkok on Monday.
TPBS
/
AP
In this image from video, Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha (left) waves and walks off as a life-sized cardboard cut-out figure of himself is placed next to the microphone during a media conference in Bangkok on Monday.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha — whose relations with the country's news media have included threatening journalists with execution (a joke, he explained later) — has found a new approach to dealing with uncomfortable questions: on Monday, he had a life-sized cardboard cutout of himself propped in front of reporters and walked away.

As he did so, the former army chief who seized power from an elected government three years ago, waved and instructed journalists: "If you want to ask any questions on politics or conflict, ask this guy."

It's not the first time, The Associated Press notes, that Prayuth has left the media dumfounded: "In the past he has fondled the ear of a sound technician for several minutes during an impromptu news conference, flung a banana peel at cameramen, and threatened, with what he called gruff humor, to execute any journalist who criticized his government."

Since seizing power, Prayuth's government has promised several times to hold elections — only to repeatedly delay them.

As NPR's Merrit Kennedy reported last April, a new constitution pushed through by Prayuth's government and approved by Thai voters "paves the way for Thailand to hold elections in the coming months, but critics say it only solidifies the power of the military."

The latest promise is for elections to be held in November.

In a report published months after the 2014 coup, U.S.-based Human Rights Watch described the situation in Thailand under Prayuth as an "apparently bottomless pit" where "criticism is systematically prosecuted, political activity is banned, media is censored, and dissidents are tried in military courts."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.

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