Instead of facing the questions of an increasingly dismayed press, Thailand’s Prime Minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha employed a bizarre and theatrical diversion tactic. Producing a cardboard cut-out of himself, Prayuth implored journalists “If you want to ask any questions on politics or conflict, ask this guy!”
He then waved “Bye bye” and departed with the assistance of his security detail, leaving his printed substitute to endure whatever inquiries reporters might have. His dramatic exit was met with general befuddlement and amusement from the press.
Prayuth had previously been addressing a small audience of handpicked kids and their families for Thailand’s upcoming annual Children’s Day.
It’s a shocking move for Prayuth, who seized power for himself in a bloodless yet still shocking military coup in 2014. Despite declaring that he would hold elections in November of 2017, Prayuth has failed to deliver on his promises.
His administration also faces mounting criticism for jailing and punishing political dissenters and protesters, especially those who have spoken out against the actions of the nation’s monarch and its military.
In contrast to his dismissiveness with reporters, Prayuth apparently encouraged attending children to engage in politics, saying that the country “shouldn’t be afraid of politics” and that it needs to “create a new generation of politicians.”
He also stressed the importance of engaging “young people with potential to get in line with 21st-Century democracy.” Evidently, the PM sees no potential in the press, so he chose not to engage with them at all.
And what of the cut-out? Amazingly enough, he was not torn to shreds. He actually turned out to be popular with the people. Members of the audience reportedly ingratiated themselves with him, posing for fun selfie opportunities.
I suspect we have not seen the last of his diplomacy.