Bangkok hotel denies anti-Aids bias

A Bangkok hotel denies claims it is discriminating against people with HIV/Aids by refusing to let them book rooms at the hotel for conferences.

  • Published: 31/07/2014 at 09:03 AM
  • Newspaper section: news

The Town in Town Hotel in Wang Thonglang district says it welcomes all guests to the hotel, rejecting claims that it has refused bookings by Aids/HIV groups because it was worried about what other guests would think.

"On the day the groups asked for a booking, all meeting rooms were full," a sales staff member said. "But we have given a booking to such groups in the past when rooms were available."

Earlier, civil society groups working with people with HIV and Aids urged the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to investigate the hotel.

The groups claimed the hotel rejected their requests to hire a meeting venue three times this month out of fears the presence of meeting participants there might scare away guests.

The first rejection was made to Path2health Foundation (P2H), an independent organisation working on health issues, which contacted the hotel's sales director early this month.

On July 14, an official with the Aids Access Foundation (AAF) contacted the hotel's sales department asking to use the hotel’s space for a training programme only to be rejected again.

A third request by the Thai Network of People living with HIV/Aids (TNP+) was also rejected on July 17 for the same reason.

"The director told us it was the hotel's new policy. He claimed customers and staff are worried [about having people with HIV and Aids on the premises],'' said AAF director Nimit Tianudom.

“He also said some customers could distinguish HIV-infected people by their physical appearance.'' In fact, he said HIV-infected people receiving anti-retroviral therapy do not show any physical symptoms.

The TNP+ sent a letter to the hotel’s executives through a receptionist last week asking them to clarify the policy but has not received any response.

Mr Nimit said HIV and Aids-related civil society groups had used the hotel for meetings during the past 4-5 years, giving it more than 10 million baht in revenue.

The groups experienced no problems before this month's sudden change of policy, he said.

Taejing Siripanich, the NHRC’s commissioner, said the NHRC would invite hotel executives to discuss the problem.

The NHRC would need to investigate the reasons behind the policy such as customers’ complaints, falling sales volumes or if any of the hotel staff had contracted HIV, he said.

“Such a policy could be considered as violating human rights,'' he said.

Dr Taejing said the NHRC received many complaints about discrimination against people with HIV/Aids during a seminar it held in Bangkok last week.

Many private firms force job applicants to undergo HIV tests, and reject applicants or fire employees who are infected.

''Discrimination against people with HIV/Aids still exists. But a lot of Thais don’t realise it,'' he said.

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Writer: Paritta Wangkiat
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