PM calls for end to 'sex tourism image'

PM calls for end to 'sex tourism image'

Ministry enraged at Gambian minister slur

Gambian minister Hamat Bah said would-be sex tourists should head for Thailand. The Gambia is notorious as the world's leading destination for Western women, especially English, seeking a dirty holiday. (Creative Commons, Flickr)
Gambian minister Hamat Bah said would-be sex tourists should head for Thailand. The Gambia is notorious as the world's leading destination for Western women, especially English, seeking a dirty holiday. (Creative Commons, Flickr)

Thailand has to change its image of being a sex tourism destination, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said Tuesday.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also expressed dissatisfaction in response to a Gambian minister's negative remark about the country's sex trade.

"We have to accept that some people make a living from this kind of occupation. Therefore, we have to help solve the problems both in the careers and income of these people. More importantly, we have to look into whether these people are happy to change their occupation or not," the prime minister said.

He added that some people decide to work in the sex business as they follow the fashion of buying luxury goods.

"When anyone says something bad about us, we have to comply and use the laws [to solve the problems]. Everything must improve. We have to help make Pattaya and other tourism areas quality tourist attractions and free of this [sex tourism]," Gen Prayut said.

On Saturday, Gambian minister Hamat Bah told state media that Western tourists planning to travel to Gambia in search of sex should stay away from his country, according to eTurboNews, a global travel industry online news outlet.

"We are not a sex destination. If you want a sex destination, you go to Thailand," Mr Bah reportedly told Kerr Fatou, a weekly show on state media GRTS.

Foreign Affairs Minister Don Pramudwinai said he did not believe the Gambian minister's remark would be taken seriously by the international community.

The ministry told the media it had told the Royal Thai Embassy in Dakar, Senegal, which also oversees Gambia, to issue a letter expressing dissatisfaction with the Gambian minister's remark, saying it could hurt Thailand's image and Thai tourism. What he said was "not in line with the facts".

Thailand has plenty of developed tourism venues and activities, the ministry insisted.

While a similar letter would also be sent to the Gambian ambassador based in Kuala Lumpur, the Gambian Honorary Consul-General in Bangkok was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a meeting Tuesday where he said Gambians living in Thailand were also unhappy with what their minister had said.

Minister of Tourism and Sports Weerasak Kowsurat said the ministry will continue to work on promoting the country as a preferred destination for international visitors as well as improving tourism products and services and ensuring that secondary provinces become new destinations for visitors from around the world.

Earlier, UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson, who met with Gen Prayut at Government House on Feb 12, at a speech in London a few days later said: "I have just discovered we have more than a million people who go to Thailand every year, where our superb consular services deal with some of the things that they get up to there."

British media implied Mr Johnson was joking about sex tourism in Thailand. The UK embassy in Bangkok later denied this was the implication.

Meanwhile, a group of Russians was arrested on Monday for organising sexual technique training courses in Pattaya.

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