Thai PM denies BBC Thai's 'staged handshake' Facebook post

Thai PM denies BBC Thai's 'staged handshake' Facebook post
PHOTO: The Nation

PRIME MINISTER Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday denied that his handshake with US President Barack Obama was staged, saying it was everyday etiquette.

"Why would I have to ask him to shake hands with me? I have my dignity. I'm a country's leader. Why wouldn't he do that with me?" he said.

A news article posted on BBC Thai's Facebook page indicated that the greeting was prearranged for a photo op.

However, the general saw no need to clear up the matter with BBC Thai.

"Did they tell you the truth? Why would I have to talk to them?" he said.

BBC Thai yesterday defended its refusal to identify the "outside contributor" who authored the controversial article titled "The UN meeting starts at home", published by the British Broadcasting Corporation last Friday.

It said on Facebook that it had sought an interview with deputy government spokesman Werachon Sukonthapatipark after he claimed the article had no basis in fact. However, he demanded that the BBC reveal the identity of the writer first.

BBC Thai said the corporation had the legal right to honour media ethics by keeping its promise of anonymity to the writer, citing pressure against freedom of expression amid the present political climate in military-ruled Thailand. It also dismissed allegations of a political motive behind the dissemination of the article, saying |it aimed to present well-rounded news.

Prayut also lamented how many media "continued producing news in such ways".

"I don't know how they do their work. Do they just wake up, write news and then send their stuff to their office?" he said.

"They have kept this up for 60-70 years, and people all over the country are still intoxicated by their news.

"When I was a military commander in 2006, they criticised the prime minister then," he said, referring to Thaksin Shinawatra.

"But now they're turning on me. Why is that? I've never done anything wrong. I've only used the law in creative, peaceful ways."

Prayut also wondered why he could not simply "invite" the media to talk to him.

"Have any media gone to jail?" he said. "It's up to them how to write the news, but man, don't be too free, or people will get hurt."

The current news approach cannot be continued any longer, he said.

"Please understand me. It's usual that I can be moody. Just don't go against me too much."

He was not infringing people's rights, he was just asking for the media to go in the right direction, he said.

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