An airport guard in Bangkok has alarmed the highest levels of Thai government after assaulting a Chinese tourist who refused to cooperate during an accommodation dispute.
The incident, which was caught on film, occurred at Don Mueang International Airport (DMK) on Sept. 27.
In the video, the guard can be seen hitting the tourist on the left side of his face after an altercation.
The tourist then points back at the guard as another security personnel intervenes.
According to Thai media, it all started when the tourist, identified as Mei Ji, was denied entry at the airport.
Mei, who was coming from Jakarta, failed to show a return ticket, a proof of accommodation, or the amount of money he planned to use during his stay.
Things reportedly escalated when Mei refused to enter a detention room and left the premises.
He then met the guard outside, where the altercation took place.
The guard, who has not been identified, initially claimed that he hit Mei because the tourist refused to give him a tip.
The incident has since caused an uproar in China, which is still recovering from the Phuket boat accident that killed 47 Chinese tourists in July.
The news also alarmed Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who ordered the Tourism and Sports Ministry and other relevant agencies to find ways to restore Chinese tourists’ confidence in Thailand.
He is set to make a formal apology to the tourist via the Chinese Embassy in Thailand, according to the Bangkok Post.
Airport General Manager Suteerawat Suwnnawat, who has been suspended for 30 days, expressed regret and apologized for the incident.
The guard was also suspended from duty while the Airports of Thailand PCL, which oversees DMK, plans to terminate his employment.
“We cannot deny responsibility for this shortcoming and I regret and apologize to the Chinese tourist,” the South China Morning Post quoted Suwnnawat as saying. “Although we have a right to defend ourselves, in this case, it was not reasonable.”