BANGKOK — Spoiler alert: skip this story if you’re at lunch.
A video that went viral on social media earlier this week seemed to confirm the worst stereotypes about growing hordes of Chinese visitors in Bangkok: a man squatted on a busy street in Chinatown before defecating in the full view of incredulous shoppers.
“The Chinese man couldn’t hold it in. He squatted and took a dump over a sewer hole in the middle of Yaowarat Market,” Thanakorn Bootnumpetch wrote in a post on June 17. “His Chinese friends kept eating their meals opposite him and didn’t care about the looks of other pedestrians at all.”
It didn’t take long before netizens and media shared the video, laying the blame on Chinese tourists for another cultural blunder. “Chinaman Doesn’t Care, Takes Down His Pants and Relieves Himself,” read a headline from the popular news site Kapook.
But it turned out the man shamed by the internet isn’t Chinese. He’s Thai, and he’s a youngster living with a mental disability. A local official and a vendor said neighbors know him as a teen who suffers from autism.
Suvit Srisaranyounont, who owns a vegetarian food business in Chinatown, said the teen is about 16-17 years old and is sometimes seen urinating on bus stops and other public places.
“His parents take care of him, but he sometimes escapes his house,” Suvit said in an interview. “The parents have to pick him up every time.”
Paisarn Charoenboonma, a city-codes enforcer working in Chinatown, also said the teen had a mental disability that often drives him to act erratically in public.
“Sometimes he runs to block a bus and then dances with the bus,” the tessakit officer said. “His behavior is well known among Yaowarat residents. They [always] warn him not to do it.”
The original video, along with the caption misidentifying the teen as Chinese, were deleted as of Wednesday morning. Yet many netizens continue to disparage Chinese tourists for their alleged offenses and cultural ignorance.
“Chinese people go viral on social media. When Westerners and other nations come here for sightseeing, I don’t see them acting disgusting like this,” user Rourmeenah wrote in a Facebook news thread.
“Can we send these images to the Chinese Embassy so they can take action and warn their countrymen about our culture?” Ananya Teeranaew suggested.
“It’s their culture, and they are not ashamed to act like that,” Athitanun Srisatan opined.
It’s not the first time that stereotypes have led Chinese visitors to become the internet’s punching bags.
In 2014, a viral image of a woman defecating into an ancient city moat in Chiang Mai province was attributed to Chinese tourist, causing much condemnation by the internet. Local residents later said the woman was a Thai woman who suffers from a mental disability, but the story lived on.
An online photo in May also purported to show Chinese tourists beating and killing sea urchins on a southern beach, to much chagrin from Thai internet. However, police later said the tourists were merely picking up the sea creatures to help them reach the sea.