Thai prime minister leaves cardboard cut-out of himself at press conference and walks away

2018 is already a lot.

Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha arrives at the Hangzhou Exhibition Center to participate in G20 Summit on September 4, 2016 in Hangzhou, China. (CREDIT: Jin Shuo/CNSPHOTO/VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha arrives at the Hangzhou Exhibition Center to participate in G20 Summit on September 4, 2016 in Hangzhou, China. (CREDIT: Jin Shuo/CNSPHOTO/VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

Politicians around the world are getting really creative in evading journalists.

On Monday, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha brought out a life-sized cardboard cut-out of himself and told journalists to direct all questions toward it.

“If you want to ask any questions on politics or conflict, ask this guy,” he said before walking away, according to the Associated Press.

He pulled the charade after an event promoting the upcoming Children’s Day. As the Associated Press reported, this isn’t the first time Prayuth has done something like this:

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.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) gave Thailand a depressing rank of 142 for press freedom in 2017, out of a total of 180 countries, and called Prayuth a “press freedom predator.”

The National Council for Peace and Order, a military junta that has ruled Thailand since a coup in 2014, and the un-elected Prayuth are notorious for human rights abuses including the suppression of freedom of speech. “The Council keeps journalists and citizen-journalists under permanent surveillance, often summons them for questioning, and detains them arbitrarily,” notes RSF. “Any criticism of the junta is liable to lead to violent reprisals made possible by draconian legislation and a justice system that follows orders.”

In October, U.S. President Donald Trump welcomed Prayuth to the White House — in spite of widespread condemnation from human rights groups. It was Prayuth’s first official visit to Washington since coming to power in the 2014 coup.

Of course, Prayuth isn’t alone in mocking the press. A 2017 Freedom Press report noted that only 13 percent of the world lives in a “media environment where coverage of political news is robust, the safety of journalists is guaranteed, state intrusion in media affairs is minimal, and the press is not subject to onerous legal or economic pressures.” Forty-five percent of the world lives in countries where the media environment is not free.

The last few weeks alone have seen politicians find ever-more interesting ways to avoid accountability from the press. On Friday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro gave U.S. publications “bad news awards” on national television.

Maduro gave the majority of the awards to Bloomberg, The Miami Herald, and the Washington Post, among others, due to their publishing “bad news” about Venezuela, where children are starving to death.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who often uses the term “fake news” to attack news that he simply doesn’t like, announced on Sunday that he has delayed hosting his own “Fake News Awards” until January 17.