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Prime Minister and junta chief Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha returned from an official visit to Vietnam in his normal relaxed mood and engaged in his regular jovial banter with the media.  They had been hearing from ministers and such that the elections won’t be happening next year as expected and wanted to hear the truth from the head honcho himself.

‘What do you want from me?’ the General expostulated.  ‘I have just returned from meetings, exhausted and sleepless. Why don’t you ask whether I am tired instead of going on about the election and constitution?’

Clearly if the media are going to survive an extended pre-election period, they must mend their ways, hence last weekend’s Media Sensitivity Training graciously (and hastily) organized by the government’s media team. 

Unaccountably, Prachatai was not invited to this training session, but our intrepid reporters have found out what transpired.  The following is a totally unreliable verbatim account of the opening exchanges.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *    

OK, the first session deals with questions that are suitable to ask the PM.

Suitable?  What’s that mean?

Well, for example, it is not suitable to ask about elections.  Or the constitution.  The PM has told you time and again not to ask those questions.  And if anyone asks them, they will get permanently excluded from the Government House press corps and repeat offenders will have their attitudes adjusted at the nearest military facility.

But elections and the constitution are what our readers are interested in.  It’s what they want to read about.

And at the appropriate time, the government will make an announcement so that the people will know exactly what to think.  There’s no need for you to keep asking questions about it.

So what can we ask about?

Well, when the PM came back from Vietnam he was clearly quite tired.  From his hard work serving the country.  So you can ask him about that.

You mean like “Dear Mr Prime Minister, sir, are you tired after your trip to Vietnam?”

That is excellent.  If you ask suitable questions like that, you may even be allowed a follow-up question.

Oh, so how about “Dear Mr Prime Minister, sir, has your trip made you too tired to think about holding an election?”

No, that would not be appropriate.  Listen, the PM is doing his very best for the country, running the government, drafting a new constitution, instituting reforms, writing songs.  His Friday talks alone would tax the strength of a normal person.  So why don’t you ask questions that help him instead of trying to pick faults all the time?

OK, I think I’ve got it.  How about “Dear Mr Prime Minister, sir, do you expect your second 6 months to be as brilliantly successful as your first?”

Oh that’s very good.  I can see you’re catching on.

Does that mean I’ll be favoured with a follow-up question?

I’m sure you would be.

Oh good.  “So in your second 6 months will you clean up the overpriced lottery scandal again?  And will you ban the minibuses from parking all round Victory Monument again?  And …”

No, no, no.  Why do you people have to be so negative?  After all this government has done to make the country peaceful and stable and prosperous …

Prosperous?  But the economic data …

… will be improving dramatically any day now, just give the man time.  As he says in his song.  Look, our Dear Leader is sacrificing himself, his health, his family life.  He doesn’t have a moment to call his own.  He could have chosen the quiet life, you know.  He could have retired on his simple soldier’s pension and his hundreds of millions in declared assets.  But instead he chose to save the nation, defend the monarchy, root out corruption and make all schoolchildren learn his 12 Thai values.  What more can you ask?

I’m sorry.  I didn’t realise.

Well that’s why we organized this training, so that you would realize.  So do you now understand what sort of questions would be suitable?

I think so.  Something like, “Dear Mr Prime Minister, sir, you are making such great sacrifices for the benefit of us all, …

That’s just what we’re looking for.

… have you given any thought to retirement?”

About author:  Bangkokians with long memories may remember his irreverent column in The Nation in the 1980's. During his period of enforced silence since then, he was variously reported as participating in a 999-day meditation retreat in a hill-top monastery in Mae Hong Son (he gave up after 998 days), as the Special Rapporteur for Satire of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, and as understudy for the male lead in the long-running ‘Pussies -not the Musical' at the Neasden International Palladium (formerly Park Lane Empire).


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