A Thai working in the United Kingdom was physically assaulted in what he claimed was a racist attack linked to the current global coronavirus outbreak.
Pawat Silawattakun, a 24-year-old tax consultant, posted on his Facebook page on Feb 9 that two teenagers hurled abuse at him due to his race and snatched his headphones as he waited to cross the street in London.
“I heard a faint sound ‘Coronavirus.. haha.. coronavirus.. coronavirus..’ directed at me from my left, as I waited to cross the street,” he wrote.
According to Mr Pawat, as one of the teenagers repeatedly taunted him and filmed him, the other proceeded to snatch his headphones before running off.
Mr Pawat said he ran after the teenagers, but one of them suddenly turned around and punched him on the nose, knocking him to the ground.
He later sought treatment at a nearby hospital and reported the incident to the police.
“The climate of racism associated with the coronavirus provides validation to abuse people of East Asian ethnicity, even in the finest cities and institutions, and has become widespread,” Mr Pawat wrote.
“The shouting of ‘coronavirus’ may have been a distraction to steal my headphones, but nonetheless the intent was clear: I was targeted due to my race.”
Mr Pawat urged all people of East Asian descent to be more vigilant and avoid walking alone.
“The indirect damage that the fear and misunderstanding of the ‘coronavirus’ has caused far outweighs the direct damage that the virus has thus far inflicted upon our society,” Mr Pawat continued.
In response, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Thais can seek help from Thai embassies wherever they are, if they were involved in a similar incident.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Cherdkiat Atthakor, said that upon being informed of the attack, the Royal Thai Embassy in London had already contacted Mr Pawat and was following the case closely.
“If Thais are attacked abroad under any circumstances, please file police reports and contact the nearest Royal Thai Embassy or Consulate for help,” he told the Bangkok Post.
Mr Cherdkiat said while different countries have different measures to boost the safety of foreigners, he believed that the British “prioritise safety” and will take appropriate measures in response to the assault.
When asked what actions are needed to help curb the rise of racism during the outbreak, the spokesperson said Covid19 is a transnational health issue which can infect anyone, irregardless of their ethnicity or background.
“We must work together to resolve this crisis,” he added.