The Thai Minister for Tourism, Sonthaya Khunpluem, has made an official complaint to the US Embassy in Bangkok about a skit on the US comedy show, Saturday Night Live.
The sketch shows various people taking an on-line language course and features a couple of rather unattractive men who are practising the Thai for “How much?”, “Is that for the whole night?” and “How can I take your clothes off?”
Mr Khunpluem has asked Youtube to take the video down (so far, the request has fallen on deaf ears) and also asked that the US Embassy conveys his displeasure to the producers of the show. He claims it is wrong to portray Thailand as a favourite destination for single men looking for sex.
Really? Mr Khunpluem comes from Chonburi where his family have long had serious political and business influence (his father was known as the Godfather of Chonburi and tried for murder and corruption). It seems unlikely he is unaware of what happens in nearby Pattaya. Or in Patong, and, increasingly other parts of Phuket. Or in Koh Samui’s Chaweng Beach. And surely he knows of Patpong in Bangkok?
If a single man, a group of men or even mixed couples walk down the main streets in any of these areas they will be accosted by people peddling sex.
Thailand has a problem. It is happy to take the money from the groups of men who visit from the Middle East, Russia and Europe but it does not want its image to be sullied. It wants to be taken seriously as an upmarket destination.
If Mr Khunpluem is sincere about improving Thailand’s image, there is a great deal he could do to ensure that the sex trade in kept to specific areas and is properly policed. In recent years, corruption has got even worse in Thailand and the sex trade plays a major part in this.
If Thailand wants to profit from the sex trade that is fine but they have no right to complain when foreign media portray this side of Thailand. Mr Khunpluem needs to do a lot of work at home before criticising others.