Thai Junta Leader Prepared to Apologize Over Bikini Comments

Thailand’s leader Prayuth Chan-Ocha is “ready to apologize” for comments he made about the safety of foreign tourists wearing bikinis, a spokesman for the junta-appointed government said.

Prayuth, who seized power in a May 22 coup and has since taken the post of prime minister, said yesterday that it would be difficult to ensure the safety of tourists wearing bikinis unless they weren’t beautiful. The comments, which received widespread attention in the international press, came after two British backpackers were slain this week on a resort island.

“The prime minister feels uneasy and is ready to apologize,” Werachon Sukondhapatipak, a government spokesman, told reporters today. “The prime minister doesn’t have bad intentions to damage the country’s image or hurt the feelings of foreigners.”

The deaths of the two tourists and the handling of the case -- including the publication of photos of the victims’ bodies and their passport information in local media -- has threatened further damage to a tourism industry already reeling from political unrest, the military takeover and martial law.

“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 yesterday that touched on tourist safety. “Will it be safe wearing a bikini, unless you are not beautiful? But all of you in this room are beautiful.”

Prayuth 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.

Werachon said the coup leader was concerned about those who misunderstood him and may clarify the issue through the media, though he would not issue a statement.

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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