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Racism In Thailand Against Chinese For Coronavirus

BANGKOK, Thailand -- When Thailand's popular, anti-government graffiti
artist Headache Stencil wrote racist rants about Chinese infected with
the coronavirus, many of his Thai and foreign fans were shocked,
outraged, and disgusted.

"Hey Chink! Please go back to ur shit-eating country. Our government
need ur money to keep their power but you all not welcome for us now.
#notwelcometothailand #backtourchinklandpls," wrote @headachestencil
on his Twitter site on January 26, which had more than 6,000
followers.

The English-language slur against Chinese is not common in Thailand,
so the artist apparently wanted foreigners to also see his post.

Headache Stencil often tweets several times a day but mostly in Thai language.

Starting in 2018, he gained wide support and pride of place in some of
Bangkok's edgy art galleries when he illustrated Bangkok's dilapidated
streets with wall graffiti showing a large clock, politicians' faces,
and other satirical imagery.

During that year, one of his graffiti targets was coup-installed
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon who successfully dodged a
financial scandal for possessing 25 luxury wristwatches worth an
estimated $1.24 million.

"Disturbing to see such blatant racism by an artist that used to be
respected by many liberals in Thailand," tweeted Mathias Peer, the
Bangkok-based correspondent for the German business newspaper
Handelsblatt.

"I'm afraid that the debate over the #coronavirus will increase racial
hatred against people from China. This is not acceptable!" Mr. Peer
wrote.

Headache Stencil angrily responded the same day: "Try to read how Thai
tweets now."

His broken English appeared to spotlight other Thais who were
concerned about the spread of the coronavirus and also tweeting
anti-Chinese comments in Thai language.

"Oh! Maybe cuz i wrote in English thats why u understood only my
tweet. No worry. We all want chink back," Headache Stencil added.

Mr. Peer meanwhile also posted a screenshot of the racist tweet.

"@headachestencil calls me a 'stupid farang' [Caucasian] after I
pointed out his racist remarks against people from China.

"It seems like this well-known government critic is taking criticism
not very well," Mr. Peer wrote.

Headache Stencil brushed off the criticism.

He claimed, without evidence, that infected Chinese were coming to
Bangkok because Thailand's hospitals were better than China's medical
care -- and endangering the lives of Thais -- so being labeled a
racist against them was simultaneously justified and irrelevant.

"Enjoy using my tweet caption. I dont think Thai ppl will support what
u think after we knew what chink plan to come to Thailand with virus
cuz better that hospital in China. Thats call murderer for me and
others Thai. I dont care to racist ppl that wanna kill others. Enjoy
yourself," Headache Stencil wrote.

The Bangkok-based correspondent for Singapore's Straits Times, Hathai
Pia, said Twitter's monitors should be informed that the artist is
using their platform to spread racism.

"You can report the tweets. I did. Quite shocking actually," she tweeted.

"I was one of those who did respect his art," tweeted That Daeng Sauce
who is based in Bangkok and sells smoked fermented sauce. "Not any
more. The total lack of remorse is even more telling."

A person nicknamed @megafan44 replied, "Honestly disheartening to see
him say that. Seems weird for someone to be anti-dictatorship but also
be a racist."

"It's sad that this has now developed into hate speech such as this
racist tweet," wrote Richard Barrow, an online columnist who reports
about tourism in Thailand. Mr. Barrow, who has nearly 145,000
followers, also posted a screenshot of Headache Stencil's quote.

On February 4, Mr. Barrow tweeted an online poll which asked his followers:

"Now that three Thai drivers have been infected with the #coronavirus
from their Chinese passengers, what should the Thai government do now?

"Keep calm and carry on? Ban travel from China? Deport Chinese tourists?

"I really hope 'deport Chinese tourists' doesn't win. That should
never be an option. You could ban travel from China, but people are
now being infected from travel to other countries.

I think Keep Calm and Carry On is the best option, but the government
needs to be more proactive," Mr. Barrow wrote.

Reflecting the spread of anti-Chinese racism worldwide because of the
virus, Thailand's Prachathai news site published on its Facebook site
an editorial cartoon by Bangkok-based Stephen Peray which he
headlined, "Sinophobia is now a global health emergency."

The French cartoonist, who signs himself as Stephff, drew a big angry
Caucasian man spewing flames from his fanged mouth, while his balding
head was also on fire under a hat emblazoned: "Make Racism Great
Again."

He was yelling at a young woman who looked Chinese and was pulling her
luggage on rollers:

"Go back to your sh*@-eating country, you *@# Ch*+#!" the man shouted
in censored English at the weeping woman who wore a facemask.

In Thailand's second-largest city, Chiang Mai police recently told a
Thai restaurant owner to remove a sign in front of her eatery which
said in English: "We apologize we are not accepting CHINESE
customers. Thank you."

Tourist Police told Waraphat Thapiang, 33, that her sign could "affect
national security," according to Thailand's Khaosod English news site.

Surprisingly, police suggested she could rewrite her sign to say
politely but deceptively: "We ran out of food" in Chinese.

"I wrote that sign in the first place because I don’t know which one
of the Chinese customers who [ate] at my restaurant was infected," she
said after agreeing to the suggested rewrite.

Ms. Waraphat wrote the first sign when she saw worried Thais leave her
Kloijai Khaosoi restaurant in Mae On district when they realized a
group of Chinese tourists were dining there, she said.

Chiang Mai is usually thronged with Chinese tourists who marvel at its
opulent Buddhist temples, relatively inexpensive prices, and sites
which featured in films seen in China.

Thailand does not have laws preventing people from being barred entry
to places based on nationality, race, religion, gender, size, age,
odor or other reasons.

"It’s not illegal. It’s their right to do so,” Tourist Police Chief
Lt. Gen. Chettha Komolwantana told Khaosod English.

"However, it’s inappropriate because it can cause damage to the
country’s reputation.”

In response, Bangkok-based @RPOBB tweeted: "True. But we can still
name and shame them. Oh wait, they can sue back for defamation."

Prayuth Chan-ocha, who seized power in a 2014 coup and was elected
prime minister 2019, reportedly surfs the Internet.

In response to anti-Chinese sentiment because of the virus, Mr.
Prayuth reminded people that hate speech was illegal and violators
would be prosecuted.

China meanwhile allowed Thailand to evacuate 138 Thais from the
locked-down city of Wuhan to an air force base in U-Tapao near Bangkok
on February 4.

Some Thais perceived the flight as a slow response by Beijing after
several other countries were permitted to fly their citizens out
earlier.

"The delay drove many Thais to think that Beijing isn't valuing the
relationship, despite significant pledges by the Prayuth
administration to buy military hardware, including the controversial
plan to purchase submarines worth 36 billion baht ($1.2 billion)," the
Bangkok Post said in an editorial headlined, "Evacuation is Long
Overdue" on February 4.

"By giving Thailand the cold shoulder, Beijing has raised serious
doubts over whether China was ever really a good friend to Thailand in
the first place," the newspaper said.

***

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
psychiatrist.

His online sites are:

https://asia-correspondent.tumblr.com

https://flickr.com/photos/animists/albums

https://www.amazon.com/Hello-Big-Honey-Revealing-Interviews/dp/1717006418

https://www.amazon.com/Sheila-Carfenders-Doctor-President-Akimbo/dp/1973789353/

https://www.facebook.com/SheilaCarfenders

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