BANGKOK — Thai Airways has issued a warning against flight attendants who took a group photo with Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.
In a video released internally but obtained by the media, Thai Airways president Sumeth Damrongchaitham says he felt “unease” at the selfies because they could have “damaged” the airline. He urged employees to respect the company’s “impartiality in all aspects.”
“Sometimes, what we do without any agenda may be used as an instrument to … damage the image of our organization,” Sumeth said. “I’d like to remind all of you to please work professionally whenever you are on duty.”
The photo of Thanathorn with a group of flight attendants on a Thai Airways flight to London was posted online by one of the air hostesses. Thanathorn is currently in Europe for what his party has called a tour to discuss civil rights issues with European political organizations.
“May I iron your shirt for you, Khun Thanathorn? Just kidding!” the flight attendant wrote in the caption.
The photo was later shared by pro-junta netizens, who took offense at the gesture.
“In that case, she should quit her job as an air hostess and work as his housekeeper,” user R. Wuth Phaenpayong wrote in a news thread.
The flight attendant in question appears to have deleted her Facebook account at the time of publication. It is unclear whether she or any other staff members were punished internally for the photos.
In response to Sumeth’s warning, supporters of Thanathorn pointed out the airline did not take similar actions when street protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban visited Thai Airways to rally support for his campaign to overthrow the Yingluck Shinawatra government in 2014.
The national carrier reported a net loss of 11 billion baht in March, citing costs in air fuel.
Gov’t Criticizes Trip
It wasn’t the only backlash Thanathorn has received for his overseas visit.
Speaking to reporters today, government spokesman Weerachon Sukhontapatipak said politicians should respect the government’s efforts to cultivate cordial diplomatic relationships, instead of causing “negative effects” between Thailand and other nations.
“The government has been mindfully devoting its efforts to foreign policies that prioritize national interests and benefits to the public,” Lt. Gen. Weerachon said. “As a result, other countries have come to increasingly understand and accept Thailand.”
He added, “Our allies, including the European Union, have been treating Thailand positively.”
Future Forward Party said its founder’s destinations in Europe include Belgium, Great Britain and Germany. Thanathorn’s aides said he will also visit New York City and Washington DC on July 12 and July 15, respectively.