Thais smile through gritted teeth for China's tourists

Fri Mar 27, 2015 5:25am EDT
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By Amy Sawitta Lefevre

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Drying underwear at a temple and defecating in public, kicking a bell at a sacred shrine and washing feet in a public restroom: that's a sample from a litany of complaints about the behavior of Chinese tourists in Thailand.

Public outrage forced the Thai government to issue thousands of Chinese-language etiquette manuals last month in an effort to ensure sightseers behave themselves.

Feathers were ruffled anew in March when a Thai model posted a video on Facebook accusing Chinese tourists of jumping the line at an airport, prompting heated debate from Thai and Chinese bloggers.

But with Thailand struggling to revive a stagnant economy after a military coup ended months of political unrest last year, tour operators in the 'Land of Smiles' say they have no choice but to grin and bear it.

Tourism accounts for nearly 10 percent of the country's economic output and Chinese holidaymakers are Thailand's largest group of overseas visitors.

It is not just Chinese tourists that Thailand is wooing: China is a top trading partner. The government has sought to strengthen ties with Beijing since some Western countries downgraded diplomatic ties when the military seized power last year.

Raising revenue from tourism is a government priority to compensate for weak exports, said Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd, the country's deputy government spokesman.

Thailand, therefore, has to tolerate bad behavior for the sake of its vital tourist industry, he said.   Continued...

A Chinese tourist strikes a similar pose to statues as they visit the Grand Palace in Bangkok March 23, 2015. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom