BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - As usual, Thai Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha stood before a microphone in front of an audience at Government House on Monday (Jan 8). Except that he wasn't answering questions, because he was a mere cutout.
"Whoever wants to take photos and ask about heated politics and conflicts, just ask this guy," Prayut said, pointing at a life-sized cardboard photo of him. He then waved goodbye and immediately left for his office.
Reporters as well as some parents and children who had gone to see the premier in the lead-up to Children's Day on Saturday were disappointed. Having no other choice, the visitors took turns taking selfies with the cutout or standee.
Last week, the latest survey by security agencies showed that the junta's popularity rating has touched the lowest level since it came to power following a military coup in May 2014.
The survey conducted on residents in all 77 provinces found that the government got an average approval score of 5.73, out of 10. That compared with the 5.28 approval rating for the Yingluck Shinawatra government shortly before the coup of 2014.
While refusing to answer questions on politics on Monday, the real Prayut did address 785 high-achieving children recruited by the Education Ministry.
He said education was a crucial part of human resources development and it was important to have more young people engaged in politics.
"We have to revamp the whole of politics," he said. "We have to engage young people with potential to get in line with 21st-century democracy."
He added: "I want a stable government with good governance. There are some good politicians but we have to create a new generation of politicians."
It has become an annual tradition to put up standees of Prayut - dressed in a suit and tie, and performing various gestures like extending a handshake - all around Government House on Children's Day for his young guests to take photos with.