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Junta leader Prayuth Chan-Ocha said the slaying of two British backpackers on a resort island had hurt Thailand’s image, and also appeared to question the behavior of some of the millions who visit the nation each year.
“It’s a pity that they think our country is so beautiful and safe they can wear a bikini everywhere,” Prayuth said in speech to government officials today that touched on social order, including tourist safety. “Will it be safe wearing a bikini, unless you are not beautiful? But all of you in this room are beautiful.”
The army chief, who seized power in a May 22 coup and is now prime minister, is known for his unscripted comments and sarcastic remarks. In a speech earlier this week, he said rubber farmers being stung by low prices because of oversupply and continued expansion might have to sell their products to Mars.
His comments on tourist safety come after two British backpackers were found slain earlier this week on Koh Tao island in the Gulf of Thailand. The deaths and the handling of the case — including the publication of photos of the victims’ bodies and their passport information in local media — may cause further damage to a tourism industry already reeling from political unrest, the military takeover and martial law.
“They can walk everywhere in their countries so they think they are safe,” Prayuth said yesterday when commenting on the case. “But here we still have some problems. There are many types of people, so we need to be careful.”
The number of tourists arriving in the first half of the year to fuel an industry that accounts for about 10 percent of Thailand’s gross domestic product declined 9.9 percent from the year before to 11.8 million, the Tourism Council of Thailand said in July.
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