Pattaya’s mayor hit back against online criticism that he cares more about Bangsaen, where he lives, than Pattaya, which has become a “ghost town” under his watch.
An angry Sonthaya Kunplome trotted out the usual Thai-government response to critics, threatening to prosecute the administrator of the “Pattaya Future” Facebook page for “fake information” Feb. 22, claiming page posts damaged the reputation of Pattaya and himself.
In a lengthy post, the Pattaya Future page compared Pattaya with Bangsaen, posting photos of a teeming Bangsaen Beach Road against the empty streets of Pattaya, saying Bangsaen is where Sonthaya calls home, “but Pattaya is where he makes his money”.
Bangsaen long has been the base of the Kunplome family that has had a decades-long stranglehold on Chonburi politics and Sonthaya’s youngest brother is the mayor there.
The anonymous critic called out protracted roadworks in Pattaya, claiming similar jobs in Bangsaen are “finished in one operation”.
Sonthaya hit back, pointing out that 95 percent of the 3 million tourists who visit Bangsaen each year are Thai while half of Pattaya’s tourists are foreign visitors. Sonthaya claimed Pattaya attracted 15 million visitors in 2019 of which 10 million were foreigners.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand says half, not two-thirds, were foreigners.
In either case, Sonthaya’s point that Pattaya attracts more Thais than Bangsaen rings true and he listed numerous steps being taken to make the city more attractive to domestic tourists, including expanding parking at Lan Po Market and widening roads to create more parking.
Sonthaya said he has lived in Pattaya and done more for the city than “nitpickers” who only criticize.