Junta Leader's Calls For 'New TV Background' Sparks Internet Meme

A photoshopped image showing Gen. Prayuth with a new "background" for his TV show [Image taken from "Change the Background For the Dear Leader" Facebook page]

BANGKOK – A day after the military ruler of Thailand expressed his discontent with the "boring" background of his weekly TV show, hundreds of Thai netizens have responded by posting doctored images of the junta leader with new, hilarious backgrounds.

Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, Prime Minister and chairman of Thailand's military junta, complained to the press at the Government House on 25 November that the public is not paying attention to his weekly televised addresses.

"Are you all bored of it now? Do you want me to dance in front of the camera next time?" Gen. Prayuth asked. 

According to a report on Matichon, Gen. Prayuth also instructed technicians at the Government House to change the background of the weekly talk show, which is called "Returning Happiness to the People." 


The current background is an image of the Government House and the Thai national flag. 

Hours later, a Facebook page called "Change the Background For the Dear Leader" was created, and its administrator asked other Facebook users to submit their creative ideas. Dozens of submissions poured in almost immediately.

One image shows Gen. Prayuth in front of a poster for "The Hunger Games" film series; a mocking reference to the movie that gave inspiration to anti-coup "three finger salutes" in Thailand. On 19 November, five student activists were dragged away by security officers after they flashed the salute at Gen. Prayuth during his public address in Khon Kaen province.


Another image places Gen. Prayuth in front of a Hello Kitty background, and one Facebook user replaced the junta leader with a cat on the podium instead – a possible homage to the internet obsession with cats.


(Browse more of the photoshopped images here.)

Gen. Prayuth seized power from Thailand's elected government on 22 May and was chosen as Prime Minister in August by his rubber stamp parliament, the National Legislative Assembly (NLA).

Since the military takeover, Gen. Prayuth has addressed the nation through an hour-long TV broadcast every Friday night to discuss the administration of the country, the economy, and other social issues. 

However, Gen. Prayuth often veers off script to offer personal wisdom and bizarre comments on Thai politics. In one address, the general told the nation that he is a selfless man who works untiringly for the country, even picking up garbage from the streets whenever he sees any. In another, Gen. Prayuth fumed at anti-coup protesters and advised them to raise their three-finger salutes in their homes instead of public places.

It is unclear whether officials at the Government House will change the background for "Returning Happiness to the People" for tonight's airing as ordered by the junta chairman. 

One thing is certain, however: none of the submissions to the "Change the Background" Facebook page will make it to the TV show. When a reporter asked Gen. Prayuth today what he thought about the entries on the comedy page, the junta chairman responded curtly: "I've seen it. They are all disgusting." 

Gen. Prayuth is increasingly seen as an autocratic ruler who exercises his power over the nation with an iron-fist. Since staging the coup on 22 May, the general has banned any public protests against his regime, pressured the media to avoid publishing critical remarks about his government, and ordered brief detentions of over 300 people considered sympathetic to the previous government. 

In September, a spokesperson of the military junta, formally known as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), urged Thais to refrain from posting photoshopped images of Gen. Prayuth on the internet, as the images may "mislead" the public. 

"There have been people with ill intention altering photos of the NCPO leader and posting them on social media  in order to mislead the public," said spokesperson of the junta's National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Col. Winthai Suvaree at a press conference on 16 September.


"It is very inappropriate. It should not be done," Col. Winthai said. "I am sure that the people are aware it is an effort to smear Gen. Prayuth."


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