Thailand has a reputation as being a centre for the sex industry. There, I said it; because it’s true. And the reputation is well-founded; not just for the obvious sex-for-sale areas targeted at foreigners such as Pattaya, Patpong and Soi Nana; but also for the even more massive industry that supports the Thai male’s requirements for horizontal recreational activities.

Naturally enough, this is not something that the Thai government would want to emphasise on tourist literature, but it is there, everyone know it is there, and many people are making a great deal of money out of it.

So nobody should have been particularly surprised when Saturday Night Live in the USA aired this:

It’s not very funny, but neither is it desperately offensive; just a silly skit on the stereotype of Thailand. It would be gone and forgotten in a couple of days, except…..

According to the Bangkok Post “Culture Minister Sonthaya Khunploem said Monday the Culture Watch Centre is working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to remove the video. The government will also tell the US Embassy the spoof is tarnishing Thailand’s image and will ask it to explain this to Saturday Night Live’s producer, he said.”

The Nation reported: “Culture Minister Sonthaya Kunplome said his permanent secretary Prissana Pongtatsirikul signed an objection letter against the 1.32-minute clip and sent copies to the Foreign Ministry, the Information and Communications Technology Ministry and the US Embassy in Thailand to tell them the clip tarnished Thailand’s image and asked for help to solve the problem urgently. Sonthaya said the ministry also wanted the “Saturday Night Live” producer to explain the facts and know that Thais were upset about the offensive presentation. -The clip was a mock commercial for the Rosetta Stone foreign-language learning programme that teaches foreigners who want to speak Thai – so they learned how to buy sex. The skit upset many Thai citizens who felt it tarnished the country’s image and caused complaints to be filed to the Culture Ministry.”

Not content with complaining to the Culture Ministry, some Thais vented their anger on-line, outraged that someone from another country dare to refer to facts that everyone in Thailand was trying hard to ignore. But at least their complaints were commensurate with the insult:

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With tempers flaring, it took Not The Nation to calm things down by issuing another statement from the Culture Minister: “This video is neither accurate nor humorous, and relies on outdated stereotypes to make fun of our nation and culture,” said Culture Minister Sukumon Khunpluem. “The truth is that Thai prostitutes and those who provide sex services are fluent in English.”

See the full statement here.

This is the biggest scandal since Lady Gaga was sentenced to death for announcing she was going to buy a fake Rolex when she came to Thailand; because Thailand is not known for copyright abuses either; or so the hooker on Beach Road with a suspicious Gucci handbag told me this evening.

I love this country, but a sense of proportion is lacking sometimes.