Popular Phuket based Facebook page attacks foreigners and tourists in Thailand over virus
by Joseph O’ Connor Thai Examiner Wed, April 8, 2020
Two people reported to be associated with the Spotlight Thailand Facebook page seen online yesterday together with a derogatory remark which appears to be a warning to foreigners in Thailand who do not stay at home during the current Covid 19 emergency. The page, established in 2014, has nearly 600,000 followers in the kingdom and has, up to now, been a highly regarded news reporting source exposing scandals and wrongdoing to its large audience.
Spotlight Thailand, a hugely popular Facebook page with nearly 600,000 followers overnight attacked foreigners as ‘shit tourism’ and called for them to ‘get out’ of the country if they refused to comply with the kingdom’s Covid 19 measures including social distancing and wearing face masks in public.
BANGKOK – A stream of complaints has been lodged with Facebook about a popular page on the social network which, overnight, featured posts from followers calling for action against foreigners in Thailand who refuse to wear face masks or fail to comply with the country’s strict social distancing rules during the Covid 19 emergency. The page also featured a photograph of two people associated with the site displaying catapults with a derogatory message about foreign tourists.
The Covid19 emergency has led to roiling tensions between some sections of the Thai population and foreigners in the kingdom who are growing increasingly concerned about a rising undercurrent of hostility.
In the last 24 hours, controversy has erupted over a Facebook page with a large following based in Phuket, which has told foreigners who fail to wear a face mask in public to get out of the country.
French man arrested in Phuket for failing to wear a face mask after governor issued a new regulation
The news comes as three foreigners in Thailand were reported as having died from the Covid 19 virus on Wednesday and after Phuket’s governor introduced a law making the wearing of face masks on the popular tourist island mandatory.
A similar one comes into force in Pattaya tomorrow.
This comes after research and painful experience in western countries has shown the garment to be essential in fighting off this disease contrary to initial medical opinion and guidance.
A French man has already been arrested in Phuket for breaking the law which further fuels the ire against foreigners who are seen by an increasing number of Thais as behaving badly at this time of crisis.
Storm of complaints lodged with Facebook
Overnight, a storm of complaints was registered with Facebook over the page Spotlight Thailand which featured a photograph of what appears to be two Thai nationals holding catapults and warning foreign tourists to get out of Thailand if they cannot stay at home at this time.
The message in Thai translated as ‘get out of my country if you do not stay at home’ and referred to foreigners visiting Thailand as ‘shit tourism’ which was the theme of the post and other comments.
It does appear that this post on the page has now been removed.
Popular page was established in 2014
The Spotlight Thailand page has 11 administrators with one of them being listed as resident in Vietnam. It was established in 2014 under a Thai name which translated ironically as ‘think big’.
The page has subsequently been called Patong Post and Spotlight Phuket before expanding to cover all of Thailand.
Facebook page has been well regarded as an exposer of truth and scandal online to a large audience
The Facebook page, remarkably, has previously had a very good reputation for exposing corruption in Thailand.
This latest post which looks like it may now have been removed, therefore cannot be discounted as simply the outburst of a deranged or eccentric type with an animus towards foreigners.
The page has over 420,000 likes and nearly 600,000 followers. It has over 1,500 recommendations.
Some recommendations turned negative over the anti-foreigner post which has surprised many people
However, in the last 24 hours, many of these ‘recommendations’ have become negative references for the page.
One concerned reader wrote: ‘SPOTLIGHT THAILAND there is only so much hatred, racism, ignorance and violence and cannot spread these topics, it is very dangerous. The great buddha teaches don’t speak badly, don’t think badly and don’t act badly.’
Another user’s verdict initially praised the page for its prior good work but lamented its recent campaign. ‘While some of their earlier work highlighting local corruption was great, their most recent work advocating violence .. is not hospitable, not very Thai.’
Reaction from the growing community of foreigners in Thailand sensing underlying racial undertones
The reaction from foreigners both within and without Thailand has been predictable.
The community of foreigners in the kingdom and a large world diaspora right now is swelled by stranded tourists in addition to expats living in the country on a long term basis.
Several controversies, including sharp comments made by the Thai Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul in the course of the current emergency disparaging foreigners, have heightened concern that this crisis is exposing an underlying antipathy towards expats and tourists in the kingdom.
Tourists vow not to come back to Thailand
For some western tourists, the controversy in the last 24 hours has been the last straw. Many have vowed once they leave Thailand after this to never return.
‘This is the final nail in the coffin of Thai tourism. I love this country and I love most of the people I’ve met here. This is also the last time I will be returning to Thailand,’ said one western foreigner, Fraser Shortt on Facebook.
Many expressed similar plans while another, Karsten Bo Andersen, expressed suspicion that this may be a prevailing sentiment that has been repressed by many Thais for a long time in the interests of the country’s tourism industry which is now defunct.
One comment on the thread threatened foreigners with a ‘big problem’ on their next meeting
The posts on the Facebook page have already become the subject of hundreds of reported complaints by foreigners to Facebook’s site monitoring team.
One worrying comment warned foreigners of a ‘big problem’.
The message read: ‘ When I see you again it becomes to big problem for you #shit tourism get out of my country.’
Phuket has the highest infection rate in Thailand
The Spotlight Thailand page is thought to be based in Phuket.
Overnight, three foreigners died in Thailand from the Covid 19 virus and extrapolated figures per 100,000 population show the popular tourist island has the highest rate of infection in the kingdom at 33.6 followed by Bangkok at 21. 6, Yala at 12.7 and 11.22 for Nonthaburi which has a large population of foreigners.
Time for foreigners to go beyond even the strictest requirements in the kingdom during this crisis
This underlying tension, however unfortunate or unrepresentative of the larger Thai community, is real and must be addressed.
The current dangerous and volatile situation makes it even more important that all foreigners and tourists in Thailand go beyond even the strictest governments requirements and focus on fighting the virus which is the common enemy.
It is also an enemy that particularly threatens the population of foreigners living in Thailand. This is not a false government narrative but a medical fact caused by circumstances and the spread of the infection to date.
Failure to do anything less on behalf of any foreigner in the kingdom, not only unfairly undermines this country’s effort to defeat the disease putting Thais and foreigners alike in danger, it also severely undermines the status of other tourist or expats who ultimately are all mere guests in the kingdom of Thailand.
About the Author
Joseph Anthony is an expat from Ireland who has lived in Thailand for the last decade. He has worked extensively in the media including editorial positions in Ireland and Thailand. He is focused on economic and business stories in Thailand as well as the expat lifestyle.
From: THE THAI EXAMINER, THAILAND Wed, April 8, 2020