Anti-Thaksin flight attendant quits after Facebook rant

Originally published at Siam Voices on December 4, 2012 A Thai flight attendent has lost her job after posting hot-headed remarks on Facebook aimed at the daughter of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The episode is another example of how hot Thai tempers still are when it comes to politics and certain public figures.

Thai media sources (like this one) and Associated Press are reporting that the flight attendant resigned.

The flight attendant said Monday on Facebook that she resigned in order to take responsibility.

"Thai flight attendant quits over Facebook coffee threat", Associated Press, December 4, 2012

The scandal erupted last week when the Cathay Pacific flight attendant posted a passenger list of her flight on Facebook that included Thaksin's daughter Paetongtarn Shinawatra. She took great displeasure to serving a member of the Shinawatra family and took out her anger on Facebook:

“I have heard that the Shinawatra family often uses Cathay Pacific to travel to Hong Kong. I never expected that (Paetongtarn) was on board today,” Honey wrote. “I immediately told my flight manager that I could not work knowing that the daughter of my enemy was on the plane. The manager was kind to reassign me to be in charge of other sections.”

"Thai Flight Attendant Stirs Honey's Nest", by Pavin Chachavalpongpun, Asia Sentinel, December 1, 2012

This could have been the end of the story. However, she continues...

She continued: “I also called my personal advisor asking if it would be all right to throw coffee at Paetongtarn, but was told that this could breach Hong Kong’s law. I was so angry and could not come to terms with the failure of last Saturday’s anti-government rally in Bangkok.”

(...) “Initially I made another plan with the help of my colleague on the flight who was also an anti-Thaksin to slander Thaksin in front of his daughter before the plane landed in Hong Kong,” Honey wrote on Facebook. “But I gave up. I could not stop crying realizing that we will have to continue to fight with ‘bad peoples’.”

"Thai Flight Attendant Stirs Honey's Nest", by Pavin Chachavalpongpun, Asia Sentinel, December 1, 2012

Obviously, her thoughts didn't go unnoticed and have been shared multiple times by both pro- and anti-Thaksin Facebook users alike and she was either attacked or praised by these groups respectively. Cathay Pacific has responded to this case and has issued a statement promising to look into the matter and stated later that day that the flight attendant is no longer working for the company.

“We have investigated the matter thoroughly. We can confirm that the incident involved a member of our cabin crew who has privately posted certain information on a social media site about one of our passengers and that it is an unauthorised incident. We can also confirm that the cabin crew concerned is no longer an employee of the company."

“Cathay Pacific regrets this unfortunate incident and wishes to assure all of our customers that their privacy – and strict adherence to all privacy regulations – is extremely important to us. All staff are expected to strictly adhere to our privacy policies as well as the highest standards of customer service. Non-compliance is unacceptable. We have highlighted this message to staff again today."

Cathay Pacific Statement, December 3, 2012

For the Thai deputy interior minister, this is enough to call for charges against her.

Deputy Interior Minister Pracha Prasobdee said yesterday that he wanted criminal action taken against the Cathay Pacific stewardess, claiming she intended to intimidate and assault a client and had violated the privacy of the airline's customer by publicly revealing the client's information. The deputy minister tweeted that he would go today to the airline to make his point.

"Cathay Pacific fires flight attendant in Paetongtarn case", The Nation, December 4, 2012

This whole story comes after the anti-government and anti-democracy Pitak Siam rally took place in late November and failed to gather any substantial support. And this failure - and any of the past failures by anti-Thaksin groups since the last election - have been met with even more fierce hate against everything that is remotely associated with Thaksin and outright dispair, that is being reflected in the chatter of Thais on social media. And thanks to the immediate nature of Twitter and Facebook, extreme political views are being amplified within a short period of time.

The heated political climate has also led to online witch-hunts, both social and political, regardless whether or not the accused is guilty or innocent. In general, emotions have been running high for a long, long time already by those invested in Thai politics and has only gotten higher and more heated in recent years - so much so as the Public Health Ministry as diagnosed parts of the country with "Political Stress Syndrome"  and have recommended to decrease the intake of political news.

Only time and a level-headed political discourse can assure us that when the next time something is brewing up, that it will be only hot coffee.