Thai leader tells reporters to quiz cardboard mock-up

In this image from video, Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, left, talks to the media as a life-sized cardboard cut-out figure of himself is carried into view by an aid, in Bangkok, Thailand, Monday Jan. 8, 2018. Prayuth evaded questions by bringing out a life-sized cardboard cut-out of himself, and telling reporters to "ask this guy" if they had "any questions on politics or conflict" then turned on his heel and walked off, leaving the mock-up behind, to bemused looks and awkward laughter from the assembled media. (TPBS via 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, Thailand, Monday Jan. 8, 2018. Prayuth evaded questions by bringing out a life-sized cardboard cut-out of himself, and telling reporters to "ask this guy" if they had "any questions on politics or conflict" then turned on his heel and walked off, leaving the mock-up behind, to bemused looks and awkward laughter from the assembled media. (TPBS via AP)
In this image from video, Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, left, directs the scene as a life-sized cardboard cut-out figure of himself is carried into view by an aid, in Bangkok, Thailand, Monday Jan. 8, 2018. Prayuth evaded questions by bringing out a life-sized cardboard cut-out of himself, and telling reporters to "ask this guy" if they had "any questions on politics or conflict" then turned on his heel and walked off, leaving the mock-up behind, to bemused looks and awkward laughter from the assembled media. (TPBS via AP)
In this image from video, a life-sized cardboard cut-out figure of Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, stands next to the microphone and faces the media after the Prime Minister left the scene, in Bangkok, Thailand, Monday Jan. 8, 2018. Prayuth evaded questions by bringing out a life-sized cardboard cut-out of himself, and telling reporters to "ask this guy" if they had "any questions on politics or conflict", he then turned on his heel and walked off, leaving the mock-up behind, to bemused looks and awkward laughter from the assembled media. (TPBS via AP)

BANGKOK — Thailand's prime minister evaded journalists' questions on Monday by bringing out a life-sized cardboard cutout of himself and telling the reporters to quiz it instead of him.

Prayuth Chan-ocha then turned on his heel and walked off, leaving the mock-up behind, to bemused looks and awkward laughter from the Government House press pack.

The prime minister had briefly spoken to the media after attending an event promoting upcoming Children's Day, but deployed his dodging tactic before anyone could ask him about a number of pressing political issues.

"If you want to ask any questions on politics or conflict," he said, "ask this guy."

It isn't the first time Prayuth — a general who seized power in a bloodless coup in 2014 — has dumbfounded the media. 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 gruff humor, to execute any journalist who criticized his government.

When it took power, his government, packed with military leaders, enjoyed considerable public support for ending a prolonged period of often-violent street politics. But as the junta's rule has stretched on, criticism of its often-repressive policies and lack of transparency has grown markedly.

Prayuth has promised elections in November, though he has made similar promises several times previously and then delayed the balloting.

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