Following widespread outrage and condemnation after his flippant remark in the aftermath of the murder of two British tourists on the southern Thai island of Koh Tao, Thai military junta leader and Prime Minister Gerneral Prayuth Chan-ocha has apologized for suggesting that the behavior of the victims is to be blamed for the crime and tourists wearing bikinis are more vulnerable to attacks.
“I am sorry that my statement caused uneasiness. I affirm that I did not look down on or criticise anyone. I simply wanted to warn them to be careful at certain places and certain times,” Prayuth said.
“Prayuth issues apology over bikini remark“, The Nation, September 18, 2014
As we reported yesterday, Gen. Prayuth rhetorically asked during a televised speech if tourists “can be safe when they wear their bikinis,” which was then followed by a flippant “unless they’re not beautiful!”
The remark was quickly picked up by the international (and mostly only by the international initially) press and has sparked criticism and condemnation, especially by the UK press – the country of the two murder victims – as exemplified by the front page of Thursday’s The Daily Mail accusing Gen. Prayuth of “insulting” and “smearing the murdered Britons”.
Some readers have been asking about the complete context of his remark. Here’s a clip of yesterday’s speech that includes his controversial remark:
[Starting at 0.09 min.] “…safety…tourists! We always have problems with that! We have to see it with their eyes: They think that our country is beautiful and safe and can do whatever they want, wear bikinis and go anywhere…I ask you: will they make it through [as in "be safe"] wearing a bikini? Unless you’re aren’t pretty. [laughter] Everyone here is pretty! Well, it’s dangerous and we have to tell them that! [We have to tell them] two things: [that we have] the law to protect them and that they have to be careful, that after [September] 18 they shouldn’t go there [but] we have security there and there looking after…because that negatively affects the tourism there…at Koh…which is it…Koh Chang? What island is it again? Ah, Koh Tao! Yeah, that’s [???]. No tourists coming because they’re afraid. [...]“
While it’s pretty clear that he’s focussing on tourist safety and that he’s concerned about the negative effects it will have, the flippant remark meant as a half-baked joke is still inappropriate at best. Paired with his comments earlier this week asking to “look into the behavior of the other side” (meaning the victims) and his overall tendency to run his mouth, one can think that Gen. Prayuth is (unwittingly) blaming the victims. (Note: also, doesn’t it come across as a bit rude that he so nonchalantly forgot where the crime took place?).
Nevertheless, this is a lesson for the outgoing army chief, junta leader and prime minister that he is now under much, much more public scrutiny now that he has took (over) this position and that he has to choose his words more carefully.
So, now that we’ve cleared this we can move on, right?
15:59 ประยุทธ์ ย้ำไม่เจตนาดูหมิ่น พูดแรงไปเพราะกดดัน แค่เตือนให้ระวังเฉยๆ เพราะคนไม่ดีแรงงานไร้ทะเบียนแฝงอยู่เยอะ pic.twitter.com/x1vGHVMOa0
— Arm Worawit (@ArmUpdate) September 18, 2014
Translation: “Prayuth insists that he didn’t mean to offend. Tone [of remark] only because he wanted to remind to be careful, as there are many unregistered migrant workers there.“
About the author:
Saksith Saiyasombut blogs extensively about Thai politics and current affairs since 2010 and works as an international freelance broadcast journalist. Read his full bio on about.me/saksith.