Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul apologised on Friday after he criticised "Western tourists" for not wearing face masks and suggested they be expelled from the country for putting others at risk during the coronavirus outbreak.
The minister posted an apology on his Facebook page for "losing it" after "some foreigners from Europe" were uncooperative while he was out campaigning for people to wear masks.
"We never know which country foreigners have visited before they come to Thailand," he wrote. Their previous stop could pose a health risk for the kingdom.
Mr Anutin was distributing masks at the Siam skytrain station entrance on Friday and complained that "farang" tourists did not take them and acted as if they "don't care".
"These kinds of people, we should kick them out of Thailand," he told reporters, waving a handful of masks in the air.
More than 10 million Chinese tourists visited Thailand last year but the industry projects about 2 million fewer arrivals in 2020 because of the coronavirus, making US, European and other markets more vital.
Debates over the efficacy of masks have bounced around the internet since the contagion first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan last month.
Health experts generally agree masks are useful if you have respiratory symptoms or are caring for patients.
But the World Health Organization's own Thailand office tweeted a graphic on Feb 4 stating masks are "not needed for general public who do not have respiratory symptoms".
The WHO has advised people to wash their hands regularly and avoid touching their face.
Tourism accounts for 18% of Thailand's gross domestic product and Chinese holidaymakers make up a quarter of total arrivals.
Thailand has detected 25 coronavirus cases and nine of those patients have recovered, while streets, public transport and shopping centres have filled with people wearing face masks.