Deport "Those Damn Caucasian Tourists" From Thailand
BANGKOK, Thailand -- Thailand's health minister has
by demanding a warning to embassies and the deportation of all "those
damn Caucasian tourists" if they do not wear medical face masks, even
if they do not suffer from the coronavirus.
Health Minister Anutin
Charnvirakul, who is not a doctor, shocked the
public when he broke medical protocol and pulled down his own mask, so
it dangled under his chin before angrily cursing Caucasian tourists on
February 7 at a busy public rail station in Bangkok.
He had offered -- with his bare,
ungloved hands -- some unwrapped,
unsterilized medical face masks to wary random foreigners who walked
Mr. Anutin then unleashed a stream of
verbal abuse during a photo
opportunity showcasing to the media how he dealt with the coronavirus.
Caucasian tourists, that is something the embassies
be notified of, and the public as well, that they are not wearing
medical face masks.
"We are handing
them [medical face masks] out and they still refuse.
They need to be kicked out of Thailand!" he raged in Thai language to
journalists covering the event.
is something that the Thais have to help. If we have these
of people, we should kick them out of the country," Mr. Anutin said.
"Unbelievable that a high-level
politician would encourage what
amounts to vigilantism against a race of people in this way,"
responded James Buchanan, a PhD. candidate researching Thai politics.
"Oh look our tourism industry is in trouble
from this virus, let's
kick out more tourists," a Thai person wrote on Twitter.
As of February 9, Thailand
confirmed 32 victims suffer from the
coronavirus. Most of them were Chinese, plus a few Thais.
foreigners were discovered to be infected, no one has died
Thailand from the virus, and several patients were released from
hospitals, according to health officials.
After a firestorm of criticism and demands
on social media that Mr.
Anutin resign because he was stirring up racism against white
tourists, he posted a Thai-language statement on his Facebook page
saying he lost his temper.
Mr. Anutin speaks English but did not
immediately issue any statement
foreign tourists and expatriates expressed fear that
become a place to avoid if Mr. Anutin's outburst is believed by other
Thai politicians and citizens who panic because of the virus.
minister's demand for people to wear medical face
even if they do not show symptoms of being infected, contradicts
advisories issued by the U.N.'s World Health Organization (WHO).
Sufferers should wear
medical face masks if they "have respiratory
symptoms: cough, difficulty breathing.
"NOT needed for general public who do not have respiratory symptoms," WHO said.
Mr. Anutin's demand comes amid a severe shortage
of medical face masks
and hand sanitizers in Bangkok.
As a result, if tens of thousands of healthy
tourists were suddenly
forced to buy medical face masks, shortages would worsen and Thais who
were infected -- and needed masks -- would find it difficult to
It would also be a disaster for the tourism
industry to expel tens of
thousands of Caucasian tourists unable to immediately buy face masks
upon arrival or while enjoying Thailand's beaches and other venues.
For Mr. Anutin's bizarre threat to be
effective, police would have to
arrange mass arrests of tourists, transport them to international
airports, and force them to pay for flights out.
warned that Bangkok's two international airports
already worsening the medical crisis by forcing all arriving
passengers to put their hands on glass scanners to record their
fingerprints, without hand sanitizers available next to the machines
to clean off possible germs deposited by countless previous
Army soldiers meanwhile were
filmed using their bare hands to stuff
face masks into plastic envelopes for public distribution, while not
wearing gloves or medical face masks.
Richard S. Ehrlich is a Bangkok-based
journalist from San Francisco,
California, reporting news from Asia since 1978 and winner of Columbia
University's Foreign Correspondent's Award. He co-authored three
non-fiction books about Thailand, including "'Hello My Big Big Honey!'
Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews," "60
Stories of Royal Lineage," and "Chronicle of Thailand: Headline News
Since 1946." Mr. Ehrlich also contributed to the chapter "Ceremonies
and Regalia" in a book published in English and Thai titled, "King
Bhumibol Adulyadej, A Life's Work: Thailand's Monarchy in
Perspective." Mr. Ehrlich's newest book, "Sheila Carfenders, Doctor
Mask & President Akimbo" portrays a 22-year-old American female mental
patient who is abducted to Asia by her abusive San Francisco
His online sites are: