Sex tourism comments made in January by Gambia’s minister of tourism and culture have triggered a diplomatic “war” with Thailand. Thailand is filing a protest through formal channels for the said derogatory comments.
The conflict all started when Gambia minister Hamat Bah said in an interview with state media that: “We are not a sex destination. If you want a sex destination, you go to Thailand. The Gambia is not a sex destination. We are not, we are not, and please every Gambian must sing that song.”
Such comments sparked an uproar among Thais active on social media, and have urged their authorities to respond accordingly.
Thailand Foreign Ministry deputy spokesperson Makawadee Sumitmor announced that their Foreign Ministry had already asked two of its embassies to send letters of protest to the African nation.
One is based in Senegal, which also has jurisdiction over neighboring Gambia, and the Thai embassy in Malaysia, where the Gambian High Commission also takes care of Thailand matters.
Thai diplomats filed a letter expressing “displeasure” at the comments made by Bah. The said insulting comments went viral on Thai social media.
Bah made the offensive remarks when he warned Western tourists who are planning to travel to the impoverished West African nation during the winter season in search of “sex tourism” to forget about their plans. He then “diverted” them to go to Thailand instead.
Thai culture minister Veera Rojpojchanarat said sex tourism used to be prevalent but has since weakened because of the Southeast Asian nation’s focus on “morality.” He added: “Thailand has improved a lot in this issue. After the Ministry of Culture worked on promoting morality, this issue has improved a lot.”
There are those, however, who expressed agreement with Bah’s “candid comments.” Social media user Ad Lump wrote in a thread: “If we weren’t hypocrites, everyone would know and understand. Many foreigners come to Thailand each year to screw. If you don’t believe me, just find my clip. Type “thailand nightlife” “sex in Thailand”, “Pattaya night” into YouTube.”