BANGKOK – Thailand’s military ruler on Wednesday (Sep 17) questioned whether tourists in bikinis are safe in the kingdom, in comments following the murder of two Britons whose battered bodies were found on a Thai island.
Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha stated that “There are always problems with tourist safety. They think our country is beautiful and is safe so they can do whatever they want, they can wear bikinis and walk everywhere,” Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who is also the army chief, told government officials. But “can they be safe in bikinis… unless they are not beautiful?” he said, addressing the issue of tourist safety in a speech broadcast live on television.
His statement appeared to echo others made to reporters on Tuesday in which he questioned the behavior of the murder victims as well as the perpetrators.
Thailand is desperate to avoid further damage to its lucrative tourism industry, which has been battered in recent months after a prolonged political crisis ended in the coup.
In a message to Britain’s foreign secretary published later Wednesday, deputy prime minister Tanasak Patimapragorn expressed his “profound regret and sadness” at the deaths of two British nationals in Koh Tao. “(The government) attaches highest priority to protecting safety of foreign nationals residing and visiting Thailand,” he said, adding that Prayuth had instructed authorities to conduct a “transparent and thorough” investigation into the case.
Prayuth on Tuesday urged investigators to conclude the cases “swiftly” and raised concern over the impact on the country’s image. With the start of the tourist high season just two months away, the junta had vowed to restore the nation’s reputation as the “Land of Smiles”, embarking on a clean-up of resorts after a series of complaints about scams, assaults and even police extortion.