Thai PM leaves cardboard cutout to answer questions

Thailand (HRNW): Thailand’s prime minister has taken a novel approach to avoiding questions at a news conference, by leaving a cardboard cutout to do the job. Prayuth Chan-ocha briefly spoke to an audience 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,” Mr Prayuth said, then walked away waving. Mr Prayuth led a military coup in 2014 and was named PM later that year. The government has promised to hold nationwide elections, but they have been repeatedly been pushed back. In April the country voted in a referendum on a new constitution and a changed electoral system, which observers say is likely to lead to a more splintered parliament. The prime minister was speaking to Thai families and reporters on Monday ahead of Children’s Day on Saturday.

Thai service says the cutout is likely one that will be on show on the day, when children will be given access to the official residence and the prime minister’s office. Reporters may have hoped to ask him questions about issues including the elections, about rumbling violence in the south, or the severe lese majeste laws under which numerous people have been jailed for insulting the monarchy. But instead those in the audience were left only with the option of taking pictures with the cutout of Mr Prayuth in a handshake pose. The prime minister did, however, speak to a hand-picked audience of children inside the residence, The Nation newspaper reported. He said it was important to “engage young people with potential to get in line with 21st-Century democracy”. He also said Thailand “shouldn’t be afraid of politics” and needed to “create a new generation of politicians”. Many students who have protested against Thailand’s military leadership have been arrested or jailed in the past few years.

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