CHIANG MAI: The Minister of Public Health described how on his recent visit to Chiang Mai he observed almost no Chinese visitors except for western foreigners who he said were fleeing the coronavirus disease in their own countries where it is now winter.
Thailand’s controversial Minister of Public Health, Anutin Charnvirakul, has hit out at white western foreigners visiting Thailand as tourists. He warned the public that western foreigners or ‘farang’ do not shower regularly and dress in a dirty manner in the context of the current virus threat.
Thailand’s Health Minister Anutin has again lashed out at white foreigners in Thailand with a direct and quite scurrilous tweet from a newly created Twitter account online.
Some may defend the Thai politician on the basis that his remarks were made as a health minister working to protect the wider Thai public from the peril of the Wuhan coronavirus.
However, it is hard to misinterpret the mindset behind these comments when considering also his earlier outburst at the beginning of February.
53-year-old Anutin is a deputy prime minister in the Thai government and the leader of the Bhumjaithai Party which came in fifth in the March 2019 general election.
The party, with policies and views reflecting a curious mix of liberal and anti-western nationalism, took 51 seats in parliament with nearly 10.5% of the vote.
Controversy in early February when he called for the deportation of white foreigners from Thailand
The minister was the subject of widespread criticism and controversy in February when he raged at a perceived slight from a white western man at Ratchathewi BTS station near Pratunam in Bangkok.
This occurred when a European looking foreigner or ‘farang’ refused to take up an offer of a free face mask with a dismissive hand gesture.
The minister had been at the station as part of a promotion to advertise the availability of face masks and to raise the profile of efforts to combat the coronavirus disease in the kingdom.
At the time, the minister stated that foreigners should be ‘kicked out’ of Thailand and threatened to report those not wearing face masks to local western embassies so that they could be deported.
Later accepted that the general public did not need to wear face masks to fight the disease
In recent weeks, along with the Thai PM Prayuth Chan ocha, the minister has acknowledged that those not infected with the virus do not need to wear the face coverings.
On March 2nd, General Dr Jerome Adams, the US Surgeon General discouraged the public in the United States from wearing such masks saying it was counterproductive.
He said on Twitter: ‘Seriously people – STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing the general public from catching coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!’
Controversy last week of high-risk zone regulations led to minister’s facebook account being closed
At the beginning of last week, the Minister of Public Health was in the news again when he posted a new measure announcing new high-risk zones and quarantine regulations ‘with no exceptions’ in respect of 11 countries including China, Italy, France and Germany on the widely used social network Facebook.
The post was subsequently deleted and his Facebook page closed down.
The regulation, in an amended form with four countries and 2 territories, was later published in the Royal Gazette.
Minister Anutin last week explained to the press that his son had advised him to take a break from social media.
New Twitter account and new controversy
But now he is back online. With a newly created Twitter account, the minister was reported on Friday tweeting about his recent visit to Chiang Mai where he observed that most of the tourists were white foreigners.
‘Today I came to Chiang Mai where I saw nearly no Chinese tourists. Only foreigners (farang). More than 90% of Thai people wear masks, but foreigners do not wear them alone. This is the reason why his country is infected so much. We should be more careful with western people than Asian people,’ Minster Anutin said in his post.
‘Many farang dress dirty and don’t shower’
But then the minister went further and made disparaging remarks about western tourists and visitors to Thailand.
‘At the moment it is winter in Europe and farang come to Thailand to hide from the disease. Many farang dress dirty and don’t shower. As hosts we have to be very careful,’ he told the Thai public.
The minister also recalled the incident in February and said that foreigners had collaborated in efforts to criticise him through the media.