(Updated 5 p.m.) – Pummeled by withering attacks charging them with both racism and xenophobia, organizers of the Bangkok Midnight Marathon said they will consult with the government to give them cover for backing off their decision to bar foreign runners.
In a statement released Friday afternoon, race director Boonperm Intanapasat apologized for the “misunderstanding” and said he was saddened by the reaction unleashed on social media.
More than 600 angry comments on the BMM’s Facebook page had gone unanswered before the statement, which fell short of dropping the farang ban. Instead, Boonperm attempted to justify excluding non-Thais, writing “that the decision was made without prejudice and aims to minimize the possible spread of Covid-19 infections. Not allowing foreign nationals was a step to ensure that people with travel history do not mix with the ones who didn’t travel.”
Of course, nearly 100 percent of the foreigners in Thailand have been here since at least March while more than 50,000 Thais have returned from overseas and gone through quarantine.
“We didn’t take into account there are many expats who would want to join the race and have fun along with locals,” Boonperm wrote.
The race director said he would “reach out to the necessary agencies to see if there are any documents/requirements we can gather and provide to get the expat community onboard this race.” Expect either tomorrow or by early next week to see plenty more apologies and wais, with emphatic invitations for anyone in Thailand to participate in the Dec. 13 “new normal” edition of the race when registration opens Aug. 8.
The controversy began when an unidentified Facebook page manager replied to an inquiry about foreigners being banned that “the decision has been made this year the registration is available only for Thais. Sorry about that and hoping for your understanding”.
The comment has since been deleted.
“The New Normal edition = the ignorant racist edition? Why won’t you allow foreigners to take part in the race?” asked Facebook user Joost Arxhoek.
“This is 100% racist and you should be ashamed of yourselves,” wrote Facebooker Si Cooper. “ALL foreigners have been in the same lockdown as Thais. We have not left Thailand in 4 months the same as Thais. Why are we excluded just because we have different colour skin? Covid 19 doesn’t care what colour skin you have, so why do you?”
On Reddit, posters suggested that people file complaints with the World Athletics Organization, which sanctioned the race.
The race is scheduled to kick off in the historic Rattanakosin area of Bangkok with two races – 21 kilometers and 10 km. –running between Sanam Chai Road and the Giant Swing. The “new normal” features are extreme levels of virus-control measures being put in place, which in the mind of organizers stretched to diseased foreigners.
The BMM, of course, is not the first business or event this year to ban foreigners for no valid reason. The Bangsaen42 marathon tried the same thing and quickly was shouted down. Bangkok’s glitzy massage parlors banned foreigners when they reopened July 1, Bangkok’s Wat Pho wouldn’t let foreigners in and even Transport Co. buses temporarily were open to Thais only. And, of course, the government’s discounted-tourism campaigns were only open to Thai nationals, until the government announced this week it would start an expat discount campaign.