Gambia embarrassed by tourism minister’s off-the-cuff remarks

Gambia embarrassed by tourism minister’s off-the-cuff remarks

The Gambia’s government was forced to apologize to two countries, including its neighbor and closet allies Senegal over reckless comments made by its tourism minister.

Hamat Bah, who is known for his off-the-cuff remarks said on a state television show, Kerr Fatou that Western tourists seeking sex should go to Thailand, warning them to stay away from the small country, and called Senegalese citizens “loudmouths” and other condescending names.

“Senegalese are disrespectful to their leaders, they spend all their precious time ranting on radio and television talking about politics rather than concentrating on national development,” Mr. Bah said.

Thailand and Senegal’s government are angry at the heedless comment by the outlandish Minister of Tourism, whose “arrogance and thoughtless” comments concerned critics.

“We are not a sex destination. If you want a sex destination, you go to Thailand,” Mr. Bah said, causing an uproar among Thais, who demand their government to respond.

Makawadee Sumitmor, a Thai government deputy spokesperson, as the Thai Foreign Ministry had asked two of its embassies to send letters of protest to The Gambia.

Gambia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave an unreserved apology to both nations “for any distress caused” by Mr. Bah’s comments. They hope the comments will not in anyway jeopardize the renewed friendship between the countries after painstaking work to polish the Gambia’s diplomatic image.

Last year, Bah made a controversial statement, urging Gambian men to marry native women and not to have children with European women to avoid turning the Gambia into a mixed-race society.

He refused to apologize and went on to further threaten to have youths, normally strolling on Gambia’s beaches jailed for allegedly harassing tourists, facing condemnation from rights defenders.

Gambia’s economy is heavily reliant on tourism. It makes up at least 20 percent of the country’s GDP. Tourism plunged after the regional Ebola crisis, although The Gambia had registered no case. It was further strained by the political impasse after the country’s former President Yahya Jammeh refused to cede power.

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