“This is by order of the Ministry of Health in Bangkok to not give out any information,” he said.
No one is going to argue with that. Considering the mess of information that has came out of Bangkok in the past week, it is actually very believable.
But to understand the position local officials are in you have to understand that kriengjai dominates nearly every facet of social interaction. Kriengjai translates as “consideration”, but is also used to describe deference to the point a Thai will not challenge a superior’s authority just for the sake of avoiding any conflict.
Kriengjai applies as a standard accepted behaviour more so in the realm of officialdom than on the streets. There are serious consequences for calling out your boss as the person responsible for what you are being blamed for, and Mr Thanit deserves support for at least letting us know.
However, we still hope that if there were something of such importance that people in Phuket should know, like any actual confirmed virus cases in Phuket, that Dr Thanit would tell us that too.
Yet it is the lack of information about the virus situation that is killing any hope that officials can be believed. Clear, accurate details of any persons being identified as even suspected of being infected must be known for public safety. The lack of this information only allows the rumour mill to gain momentum, and in the age of mobile phones and social media, rumours spread much faster than actual reports.
Just as an example, one unsubstantiated report circulating the island last week claimed that of the 10 people last reported as just under observation on suspicion of being infected with the virus were infected and were being held in isolation in hospital. This is how dangerous rumours can be – and worse, no one in the public sphere knows if it is true.
To cite one diplomatic figure speaking frankly to The Phuket News this week about this issue, even one confirmed case would not be terminal for Phuket. We just need to know exactly what is being done about it and that the action taken is appropriate .
That would build confidence among tourists that Phuket is likely to be a safe place to visit.
But so far, if you want to know who is doing the most damage to Phuket’s tourism image, it has to be officials in Bangkok.