Thai Airline Apologizes for Insulting Phuket Heroines

Screenshot of the misspellings in the Thai smile in-flight magazine.

PHUKET – A Thai airline has apologized for misspelling the names of two historical figures in its in-flight magazine, which was deemed offensive by some residents of Phuket province.

In the April issue of Thai Smile's magazine, the names of Thao Thep Kasattri and Thao Sri Sunthon, two warriors who led a local resistance against Burmese invaders in the 18th century, were misspelled to read "Feet of Thep Kasattri and Feet of Sri Sunthon." 

Feet, which are pronounced as “tao” in Thai, are considered offensive in Thai culture. 

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Thai Smile representatives apologize to statues of the two warriors in Phuket province, 24 April 2015.

Photos of the misspellings quickly surfaced on the internet and were widely shared on social media, with some commentators taking offense at the error. Thai Smile is a low-cost airline that is owned and operated by Thai Airways, the national flag carrier of Thailand.

Kornthichart Wattanapat, secretary of the Phuket-based Thao Thep Kasattri and Thao Sri Sunthon Foundation, also issued a letter to Thai Smile headquarters demanding an apology.

"Your publication lacks careful [oversight] and misspelled the names of Thao Thep Kasattri and Thao Sri Sunthorn, as the attached document shows. Such action is deeply inappropriate," the letter said. 

Natenapang Teerawat, deputy chairperson of Thai Smile, and other representatives from the company also conducted a ceremony in front of the statues of Thao Thep Kasattri and Thao Sri Sunthon in Phuket province to apologize to the spirits of the two warriors. 

She told reporters that the magazine was the first issue to be produced solely for a Bangkok – Phuket flight, and admitted that there was a lack of editorial oversight. Natenapang said the content of the magazines was produced by a separate company contracted by the airline.

"I have to admit that we didn't carefully check the magazine, which led to the error," Natenapang told reporters, "But as soon as the errors were discovered, we took the matter seriously. We have ordered a recall of the magazines from the aircrafts." 

She added, "We are aware that the two heroines are respected and worshiped by the people of Phuket and Thailand. I insist that we never had the intention to insult or violate the two ladies. It was an error that took place without our intention." 

Suriya Krutpan, the author of the article who was also present at the ceremony, said he was working under a tight deadline. "This mistake will be a lesson of a life time for me," Suriya told Khaosod. 

According to local legend, Thao Thep Kasattri, the wife of Phuket's ruler, and her sister, Thao Sri Sunthon, rallied local residents to fight Burmese soldiers that landed on the island in 1785. After a five-week battle, the Burmese army retreated from Phuket, which state history attributes to the bravery of the two heroines. 

Many communities of Thailand are fiercely loyal to their local heroes and heroines – historical or mythical. 

In 1996, protests broke out in the northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima after Matichon Group published a book that suggested the tale of a local heroine's fight against Laotian invaders was largely fabricated. Matichon Group later withdrew the books from the market, while the author, historian Saipin Kaewngamprasert, had to move from her home in Nakhon Ratchasima following death threats. 

 

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