Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Thailand: US-Born Thai Businessman Who Renounced US Citizenship Pens "Open Letter to Foreign Ambassadors" in Bangkok Post

William Heinecke, 64, a Thai businessman and the chairman and chief executive officer of Minor International, of Bangkok-based Minor International, a diversified company engaged in the tourism industry.

Mr. Heinecke made critical remarks in an "Open Letter to Foreign Ambassadors" in the February 21st issue of The Bangkok Post.

In his letter to the Post, Heinecke complained vigorously to foreign governments that released unnecessarily severe criticism of travel advisory issued by foreign envoys, although not all.

Below is the link to the entirety of Heineke's op-ed piece which appeared in the February 21, 2014 issue of The Bangkok Post:


COMMENT: Although eloquently stated, Mr. Heineke's "open letter to foreign envoys accredited to Thailand," the  foreign envoys accredited to Thailand were puzzled by Mr. Heineke's op-ed piece.
If anything, Heineke seems to be blaming all envoys equally for Thailand's "deepening woes for the tourist industry as a result of ongoing protests aimed at overthrowing the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra," even though many ambassadors never issued a negative-impacting travel warning. 

Strangely, it was Prime Minister Yingluck herself that initially attempted to ram through an amnesty bill in Parliament designed largely for the benefit of her older brother, Thaksin. Thus, to some extent her troubles were self-inflicted.

At the same time, it is hardly the fault of foreign ambassadors that are to blame for looking after the best interests of their citizens, which falls well within their countless responsibilities.

Moreover, On Friday (February 21), a caravan of some 700 trucks and tractors headed for Bangkok’s main airport to protest about overdue government payments from a controversial rice-subsidy scheme. Amid fears that they would block the airport, they called off the action at the last minute when one of their leaders said the government had promised to pay them next week.

Obviously, if the leaders of the convoy don't deliver on their promise, blaming foreign ambassadors is seemingly ludicrous. 
Heinecke, who deliberately became a Thai citizen in 1991, surrendering his US citizenship, very likely because of business motivations, said he was appealing to foreign envoys to ease back on the travel warnings on behalf of his “40,000 employees and those whose livelihoods depend directly and indirectly on tourism — one of the vital drivers of the Thai economy.” 

If Heineke has a "beef" with specific envoys he should consider communicating with them separately, although he must remember that interfering with any ambassador's sworn duty to protect the interests of  foreign citizens is unlikely to be effective.
Heinecke’s company controls such well-known brands as Four Seasons, St. Regis and JW Marriot in Thailand, along with numerous restaurant and clothing brands. He said the country has the “best tourism infrastructure in Asia which provides livelihoods for millions throughout the country.”
The issuance of travel warnings by embassies is often criticized in many countries because it can adversely impact tourism revenues and create a feeling of worsening crisis in times of turmoil. In the case of Thailand, however, the warnings seem reasonable in a situation fraught with deep uncertainties over a potential coup or possible widespread violence from an impassé provoked by the opposition.
“These unnecessarily severe travel advisories are now having a major impact on the livelihoods of Thai people across the country,” Heinecke said. He cited government figures showing that tourism arrivals in January 2014 dropped by one million from the same time last year. He said the Tourism Council of Thailand “quantified the revenue loss as 22.5 billion baht.”