BANGKOK — A foreign resident on Wednesday said he was turned away by employees at a bank in downtown Bangkok who allegedly cited coronavirus measures and his ethnicity as the reason.
Russian national Grigory Zimenkov, 36, said he was wearing a face mask when he tried to enter a Bank of Ayudhya’s branch on Surawong Road at around 1pm.
Zimenkov said a guard asked him to wait outside. Then a couple of employees came out offering to help him use the ATM rather than entering the bank, but Zimenkov said he needed to use a teller’s service to do bank transactions. Then, a bank manager came out.
“The manager showed me on his phone some announcement about COVID-19. So I asked, ‘because of COVID I cannot enter? Because I am a foreigner?’ And he nodded,” the Russian expat said.
Zimenkov said he then offered to hand him his card and passport to the bank employees so they could do the transactions for him while he waited outside, but his request was rejected. While the exchanges happened, other Thai customers were free to enter, he said.
The expat said he later went to the Krungsri branch at Chamchuri Square to do his transactions: “It was smooth, without any problems or questions.”
An employee answering the phone at the Surawong branch Wednesday said he would not comment on the matter, but insisted that the incident was “related to COVID.”
The Bank of Ayudhya’s call center said that the company does not have any policy to bar foreigners from using its services.
“We don’t have any policy that discriminates against customers. It could have been a misunderstanding since he does not speak Thai,” the operator said, adding that the headquarters will look into the matter.
Zimenkov said he has not left Thailand since Dec. 2019. Since he does not speak Thai, the expat said it was possible that a miscommunication had transpired.
“I don’t know how to explain or characterize it, but it was strange,” he said, laughing. “I wasn’t expecting that it would happen so soon after the new outbreak in Samut Sakhon.”
A number of businesses and state-run attractions shut their doors to foreigners after the coronavirus broke out in January – regardless of their travel history.
There are little legal consequences for discriminating against foreign customers, though government officials have intervened in some high-profile cases. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it does not endorse the practice of refusing services to foreigners.
“Any signs that suggest banning foreigners are business establishments’ prerogative. Such action is discouraged and limited to only a small number of shops in certain areas,” the ministry said in a statement.