Police in Thailand are on the hunt for a presumed-Chinese tourist who was filmed kicking bells at the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple in the Thai city of Chiang Mai. The 14th century Buddhist temple is a sacred site to many citizens and a popular tourist destination. Increasing Chinese tourism into Thailand has led to added friction with some locals over the tourist's misbehavior, and many Chinese people on the Internet have decried their countryman’s bad etiquette.
Chiang Mai police Maj. Gen. Bundit Tungkhaseranee said on Monday that local police and immigration authorities were looking for witnesses to the bell kicking and that they were examining surveillance footage to identify the man, according to the Bangkok Post. Bundit added that the police were scouring the Chiang Saen checkpoint records and inquiring with Chinese tour guides and travel agencies to try to find the perpetrator. Bundit said when they find the man, his identity will be made public and he will be subject to a Thai culture and etiquette education course, and should he refuse, he would be blacklisted from re-entering the country.
"It will take some time to say whether the tourist is actually Chinese," Chuan Patwan, the temple’s administrator said, according to local news source Khaosod. He did not witness the kicking but saw the video. "But judging from his style, he was kicking his feet with so much agility, it was like kung fu." He added that the temple has asked all tour guides in Chiang Mai to teach tourists about proper etiquette when visiting temples and other historic sites, so that “it won’t create a negative image for Chinese tourists,” Chuan said. The video shows a man whose face could not be seen due to shadows, but he started by ringing the bells with his hands, and by the end of the video he was seen kicking the bell pull. The man was heard in the video telling a woman to “take another [photograph]” in Mandarin Chinese.
Chinese tourists surged into Thailand over the “Golden Week” holiday in China, a seven-day national holiday celebrating the Chinese New Year. Over 90,000 Chinese people visited Chiang Mai alone during that period, Thai tourism authorities estimated, according to Thai local Phuket News. Wisut Buachum, director of Tourism Authority of Thailand for Chiang Mai, said he had been informed about the Doi Suthep temple incident. "Such action is inappropriate, regardless of the nationality of the tourists," Wisut said. "The TAT is collecting problems and issues about tourists' behavior that happen frequently, in order to discuss them with relevant agencies. However, I think it's only the minority of Chinese tourists; the majority fully cooperate, and the guides give them good advice." Earlier this month, in preparation for the expected spike in Chinese tourism to Thailand, Thai authorities said they would issue etiquette manuals for Chinese tourists on how to behave when they visited over Chinese New Year.
The Chinese Internet community collectively groans upon each incident of a Chinese tourist misbehaving overseas, and this infraction has incited similar responses. "The Chinese tourist kicking temple bells has sullied the reputation of China. Why can’t they have a little bit more self-respect?” said a user on China’s microblog Weibo. “I feel that we have been too lenient to these people (who keep giving us a bad name). Looks like we need to identify this person (and publicly shame him),” said another Weibo user.