Boycott cannon aimed at luxe Phuket resort after owner disses student activist

Sri Panwa Phuket heir Vorasit Issara calls out a pro-democracy activist in an Instagram story. Images: Wan.issara / Instagram
Sri Panwa Phuket heir Vorasit Issara calls out a pro-democracy activist in an Instagram story. Images: Wan.issara / Instagram

A boycott campaign against media outlets, advertisers and high-profile government supporters has now reached a five-star luxury resort on the island of Phuket.

Since last night, #BanSriPanwa replaced protest-related topics to trend atop Thai Twitter after Sri Panwa Phuket owner Vorasit Issara called out pro-democracy activist Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul’s rally speech as “bullshit” and said the authorities should “arrest this child.”

“This bullshit has got to stop … she is not thai! Who is he working for? This one need to be in prison. How dear u!” Vorasit wrote in broken English in an Instagram story.

That led netizens to dig up the 38-year-old heir’s past and attack him as a salim supporter of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha and the political movement that paved the way for him to seize power in 2014.

Talking to Coconuts Bangkok on Monday evening, Vorasit denied being an out-of-touch elite and said he’s unconcerned about the boycott call.

“If you don’t love [political] establishment, you better not come to my resort. Don’t be my guest,” he said.

As for his politics, he rejects protesters’ calls for royal reform, saying he’s become upset after listening to them in recent weeks.

“I totally understand free speech, but there is a law about defaming the monarchy,” Vorasit said, referring to Section 112 of the criminal code which punishes royal insult with up to 15 years in prison.

Anger against the government has increasingly led energized activists to go after its supporters. Growing lists of companies linked to its financial benefactors or which advertise in pro-establishment media have been targeted by boycott calls.

While its unclear how effective the campaign has been, it has brought pressure to bear. Last month, multinational conglomerate Minor International said it would reconsider advertising with The Nation media group after it became a target.

The movement expanded to denunciations of Thai celebrities who show support towards Prayuth’s government and criticize pro-democracy activists. Last month, TV host-model Ornapha “Ma” Krisadee, who said that students should not protest but “stay home and spread their vaginas,” a reference to masturbation, was fired from her employer Polyplus Entertainment.

Panusaya, one of the protest movement’s student leaders, led a Sunday morning march to the offices of the king’s privy council with a letter addressed to the monarch that called on him to enact reforms. On Saturday she spoke critically of the monarchy from the protest stage.

Rising criticism of the monarchy, formerly an off-limits topic of discussion, has enraged segments of society which still regard it as sacrosanct.

While some online joked that they had already been actively boycotting Vorasit’s Phuket resort by default – stays run up to THB20,000 (US$643) per night – others posted cancelation receipts to show they would not stay there.

The resort had not publicly responded to the controversy as of early Monday afternoon despite its Facebook page being inundated with criticism.


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