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Gambia apologises to Thailand over sex tourism comments

The Gambian government has officially apologised after one of its ministers said Thailand was a haven for foreign sex tourists.

Last month, Hamat Bah, Gambia’s minister of Tourism and Culture angered Thai officials when he said tourists who are looking for sex should go to Thailand because Gambia is not a sex tourism destination.

“We are not a sex destination. If you want a sex destination, you go to Thailand,” Mr Bah said in an interview which first aired on Gambian TV on 12 January.

The remark gained attention when it was picked up by a travel news website more than one month later.

The comments resulted in the Thai government making an official complaint to its Gambian counterparts.

But now Gambia has officially apologised.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad of the Republic of The Gambia regrets the unfortunate comments made by the Minister of Tourism and Culture, in which he referred the Tourism Sector of Thailand in a negative manner during televised TV Programme aired on 12 January 2018, read an official government statement.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs would like to express its heartfelt apologies to the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand and extends assurances that measures will be put in place to prevent the occurrence of such an unfortunate incidence. The Ministry extends its profound assurances to the Government of Thailand that the remarks of the Minister are not to be construed as a reflection of the  Government’s view on the Tourism Sector of Thailand,” it added.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs values the excellent relations shared  with the Kingdom of Thailand and wishes to renew its commitment to strengthening cooperation between the two brother countries.”

Earlier this month in a statement released to Reuters, Thailand’s tourism body distanced itself from its sex destination image, saying it “strongly opposes any form of sex tourism”.

“The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) ensures that its marketing strategy and policy to move Thailand forward as the ‘Quality Destination’ has stepped in the right direction … and strongly opposes any form of sex tourism,” the TAT said in a statement.

Prime Minister Prayuth also recently weighed in on the subject, urging all concerned to help Thailand shake its image as a sex destination for foreigners.

While Prayuth acknowledged that Thailand’s image has for a long time been tainted due to its image as a sex destination, he said that many people in the country make their living from working in the sex industry.

He said that while some people were forced into the sex trade due to poverty, many others did it through choice.

“Some people love expensive goods, but they don’t have the money, so they resorted to the easy means to earn quick money,” he said.

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