In a statement last night, the minister appeared to target one western foreigner who refused his offer of a free face mask and said that the foreigner who refused the mask could not know the efforts being undertaken by his department and hard-working officials to keep Thailand and its people safe from the outbreak. He said he apologised for his inappropriate comments but denied he had been angry. Instead, he explained that he became emotional at the apparent nonchalance of some western foreigners towards the threat. On Saturday, 7 new infections were announced in Thailand bringing the total number of infections to 32 and the fourth-highest number outside China.

Thailand’s Ministry for Public Health has announced another 7 infections from the coronavirus bringing the total number of infections to 32. In an emotional outburst on Friday, the Public Health Minister, Anutin Charnvirakul, suggested that western foreigners who refuse to wear face masks and cooperate in the fight against the deadly coronavirus should be reported to their embassies and deported from Thailand. ‘These kinds of people, we should kick them out of Thailand,’ he told a posse of reporters at the Siam BTS station in cental’s Bangkok’s Pathumwan district. The minister later apologised for his inappropriate comments but remained defiant towards one European looking westerner who waved away his offer of a free face mask. He said he would never apologise to the man who had insulted the Thai people.

The Public Health Minister, Anutin Charnvirakul, on Friday gave away free face masks at the Siam BTS station in Pathumwan in Bangkok. During the promotion, a European foreigner declined an offer of a face mask which led the minister to rail against the attitude of western foreigners towards the need for precautions. Today in Bangkok, 7 more infections were reported by the ministry linked with the coronavirus.

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul took to Facebook on Friday evening to apologise for what he termed inappropriate comments at the Siam BTS station earlier in the day in which he suggested that western foreigners who blithely ignored the current crisis by not accepting or wearing face masks should be expelled from Thailand.

The incident appears to have been sparked during an effort by the minister and Public Health Ministry officials on Friday to promote both the availability of face masks and the need to wear them to assist in Thailand’s disease control measures which have been implemented since January designed to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

One western foreigner appears to have dismissed an offer of a free face mask on Friday at Siam BTS

It appears that one foreigner, described as a European westerner, dismissed the minister with a wave of his hand when offered a face mask.

Later in explaining what happened, the minister pointed out that during the day, foreigners and Thais alike had all accepted the offer of a face mask against the virus with gratitude and warmth.

‘Farang’ acting as if they don’t care

In the aftermath of the rejection by the western foreigner who the minister singled out as among a small minority of people who had rejected the offer of a mask, the minister made the comments that he later apologised for.

He observed that ‘farang’ who declined to take the face masks acted as they ‘don’t care’ about the current health crisis. ‘These kinds of people, we should kick them out of Thailand,’ he told reporters who had gathered to promote the face mask giveaway to the public.

The minister said that officials should make contact with the respective foreign embassies of the foreigners involved and have them deported from Thailand.

Minister has been at the centre of what so far has been a successful defence against the outbreak

Minster Anutin, the leader of the Bhumjaithai Party, has been at the centre of the fight to keep Thailand safe from the threat.

Thailand prides itself on its ability as a nation to implement disease control measures through cooperation with state agencies and significantly, the public. Hence the importance of face masks and precautions while in public.

The country is perhaps the country most at risk from the spread of the virus with Hong Kong. So far, there have been 32 cases with at least 10 already cured.

On Saturday seven new cases were recorded in Thailand including 3 Thais and 4 Chinese. 

Minister Anutin posted his message on Facebook at twenty to nine on Friday evening.

Denied that he was angry just emotional and apologised for some inappropriate remarks

In his clarification, he admitted that he showed emotion on the subject on Friday but denied that he had been angry.

While he accepted that some of what he said may have been inappropriate, the minster focused on the rejection of the offer of a free face mask by one western foreigner.

He said he would never apologise to that individual and accused the man of insulting the good intentions of the Thai public and the government’s efforts to protect Thailand from the coronavirus threat.

Highlighted the hard work of the ministry and its officials in dealing with the current emergency

He explained that he was 100% sure that this person did not understand the work being undertaken by the government and officials at Thailand’s Ministry of Health.

He also said his outburst on the subject may have been misinterpreted by the media.

Rejection – an insult to the Thai people

He said that the gesture of the western foreigner in refusing the proffered face mask with a swipe of his hand was disgusting given that it was being given with good wishes and intentions. He said that act was an insult to the Thai people.

Did not regret letting the media know about how he felt about what happened at the rail station

Minister Anutin also said he did not regret retaliating through the media so that foreigners can be aware of his intentions as a Thai person and minister involved in taking measures to prevent this disease outbreak from spreading in Thailand.

He said he, as a Thai person, would never tolerate foreigners who discriminate and insult Thai people.

Minister Anjutin said that he had many friends who were foreigners but that he could not be friends with foreigners who acted contrary to the interests of the Thai people.

Thailand has not closed its borders to foreigners

The minister observed that Thailand has recoiled, in its approach to the virus, from cutting off visitors from the country and still welcomed them.

He explained that because of this, people needed to take precautions in public. 

He also defended the government’s approach saying Thailand’s record so far in countering this outbreak is better than many countries in the region due to its experienced and effective approach to disease control.

No shortage of face masks in Thailand

Minister Anutin went on to emphasise the message being promoted on Friday. That was that face masks are available to the public with no shortage.

He said if anyone has a problem to go to local pharmacies or health product suppliers.

The country was now producing 1 million masks a day and any hold-ups would only be due to short-term delivery issues.

Would never apologise to that one western foreigner

In apologising for his inappropriate behaviour on Friday, he also pointed out that it may have been misunderstood by different audiences when disseminated through the media.

However, he again stressed that he would never apologise to the foreigner who had spurned the generous offer of a facemask from the Thai people.

WHO senor official says face masks help prevent the spread of the virus but warns it is not enough

There is conflicting evidence and advice as to the efficacy of wearing face masks. While some medical experts suggest that they are less effective at protecting the wearer than thought, it is accepted that they are useful and effective at spreading infection. 

This week, Sylvie Briand, who is the Head of the Global Infectious Hazard Preparedness division of the World Health Organisation, said that masks are quite useful for people with respiratory symptoms or people caring for patients.

She said they certainly help curtail the spread of the disease but warned that washing hands regularly was an even greater requirement.

Further reading:

80% of China’s economy remains shutdown as Thai Deputy PM warns of another economic storm

Thailand repatriates nationals from Wuhan with 6 more infections announced by the Health Ministry

US Commerce Secretary Ross calls on US firms to review investments in China after coronavirus outbreak

Thai King offers solidarity and support to the Chinese leadership during the coronavirus crisis

Thai Airways suspends flights to six Chinese destinations as coronavirus outbreak grows

Bank interest rate cut anticipated as a devastated tourism industry battles with the Chinese coronavirus threat

Taxi driver is infected by Chinese tourist as Public Health Minister supports scrapping visa on arrival