INTERNET users in Thailand have slammed BBC Three over a video montage on tourism in the country following the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej late last week, accusing the British broadcaster of ‘misleading’ and ‘inaccurate’ reports on the matter.
The video, which stretched for nearly two minutes and was aimed at advising tourists how to behave appropriately while the country mourns its revered monarch, has, however, been removed from the BBC News Facebook site following the backlash.
Local media reported that users complained about the inaccuracies in the brief video, entitled “Off to Thailand? It won’t be what you expect”, that they said depicted a watered-down version of the country, which is popularly known for its bustling nightlife and beach parties, among other attractions.
Although true that the Thai government has imposed a one-year mourning period for the public sector, during which civil servants are to wear black, netizens claimed that the advice contained in BBC’s montage could put foreigners off from visiting the country. Prior to the king’s demise, the country was already faced with a sputtering economy.
King Bhumibol passed away peacefully at a Bangkok hospital on Thursday, but as the country went ibto mourning, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha instructed stock markets and businesses to remain open the following day to avoid the nation’s economy from taking a further plunge.
According to Thai Visa, the video was originally uploaded to BBC Three’s Facebook page on Oct 14 and gained more than 2.3 million views after it was shared on the BBC News Facebook page.
Without explaining, the broadcaster deleted the video posting from the BBC News page on Monday. However, this is believed to be due to criticisms from the Thai public.
Amid a backdrop of a Koh Phangan Island’s monthly Full Moon Party, the footage kicks off by saying “Thailand can be fun, but if you’re about to go, it might not be what you were expecting.”
The video then suggested that a “night out might be tricky” as a result of the nation in mourning as there was “restricted access to bars, restaurants, and shopping”.
It also noted that “booze will be hard to buy” and that tourists “won’t be allowed to watch foreign channels” on TV, as cited by Thai Visa.
However, netizens comprising Thai citizens, expats and tourists said this was not the actual situation.
Mark Cundall, who lives in Phuket said: “7-11’s are now back open selling alcohol and bars are going to be open any time now… it’s not as bad as you are making out. Yes, half moon and full moon parties are cancelled, but the hotels/bars are allowed to open/sell alcohol and play music… Yes, it will be toned down.”
He added: “The king was like a God, but I think all Thai people knew it was coming, he had been ill for such a long time. Just make sure if you are drunk, don’t act a fool and you will be fine… Thailand needs tourists.”
Thailand had vowed to keep the doors to its many attractions open during the official period of mourning but has advised tourists to be mindful of their dressing and behavior.
In an advisory posted on its website, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) said with the exception of Wat Phra Kaeo (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) and the Grand Palace, the venues of the Royal Funeral Rites, all other tourist hotspots will operate as usual.
It said it was not necessary for tourists to copy the Thai public and dress in black or white as a sign of mourning, but urged them to try and wear “somber and respectful clothing” when they are out and about.
“Visitors should refrain from conducting any inappropriate or disrespectful behavior,” it added in the notice posted Friday, a day after the king’s death.
It also informed visitors that the Thai junta government has asked for the cooperation of entertainment venues like bars and nightclubs to “consider the opening of their business operations during this time.”
It said, however, that each individual owner is given the discretion to decide on this matter.
This could mean that Thailand’s many entertainment outlets – seen as a cash cow for the kingdom’s thriving tourism sector – may choose to keep their doors closed for a certain duration during the mourning period, which commenced Friday.