HotelsLetter to PM and Bangkok governor calls for ‘further strong actions’

Minor International chairman pleads for greater Thai Covid-19 response

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Bill Heinecke: “We are closing our hotels in Bangkok, with a view to extending this to other high-risk areas in Thailand.”
Bill Heinecke: “We are closing our hotels in Bangkok, with a view to extending this to other high-risk areas in Thailand.” Photo Credit: Minor International

BANGKOK - The chairman of hotel chain owner Minor International, Bill Heinecke, has written to Thai prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Bangkok governor Pol General Aswin Kwanmuang, pleading  for public movement and activities to be contained  amid the rising number of new Covid-19 infections.

Mr Heinecke says in his letter that a large portion of Thailand “does not seem to understand the gravity of our situation and is not taking the threat seriously enough”.

In view of the threat posed by Covid-9, Minor International is closing its hotels in Bangkok, “with a view to extending this to other high-risk areas in Thailand”, Mr Heinecke added.

This is Minor International chairman’s open letter:

Dear Prime Minister, Dear Governor,

Subject: Support for further strong measures in response to Covid-19 crisis

The rapid spread of Covid-19 is becoming the greatest threat to the global economy that we have seen in our lifetime. We applaud the strong actions that have been taken by the Thai government and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) to date, including restrictions on inbound travel to Thailand and the March 21 announcement by the BMA ordering the closure of malls and other businesses across Bangkok.

We have seen similar action in Chiang Mai and other provinces across Thailand. We further applaud the important steps that the government has announced to support wage-earners and companies throughout Thailand during this period.

We are now starting to see an exponential increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in Thailand and it seems (based on trends in other countries) that we now are at a critical point to intervene and stop the situation from getting much worse. We are at the tipping point!

Despite this, there is still a large portion of our country that does not seem to understand the gravity of our situation and is not taking the threat seriously enough.

Boxing matches continue, weddings are taking place, pubs are still serving customers and parties/social gatherings are still happening. Moreover, following the Bangkok closure announcement, we saw a large movement of people upcountry, posing further transmission risks to the country at large.

I am writing to express my full support for any further strong actions that the government may now consider to ensure that Thailand not only stems the spread of the Covid-19 virus but emerges with a healthy and intact society and economy.

I strongly support clear messaging from the government urging all Thais to stay home and restrict their personal movements for the good of the country, as well as any actions that the government may take to enforce any such order.

Other countries have banned all gatherings of more than 20 or 30 people, which has proven to be an effective step. I believe that under your strong leadership, the message to stay home, limit personal movement and avoid interaction with others will be taken to heart and will help us overcome this crisis.

We at Minor International believe that the risk to hotels guests, our staff and the public remains very high despite the steps already taken by the Thai government and the BMA.

This is because the virus has proven to be so highly infectious and because there is simply not sufficient testing capability at present to effectively stop its spread.

As such, as of today we are closing our hotels in Bangkok, with a view to extending this to other high-risk areas in Thailand.

We are urging our staff to stay home and to limit any travel or indeed any out-of-home activities at all. While this will be painful in the short term, we believe that strong short-terms measures are the best way to address this and avoid large-scale job losses and disruption.

We consider this to be first and foremost a health and medical crisis and we are being guided by what the health experts are recommending, despite the short-term cost to our business.

We believe that others in the private sector support and are taking a similar approach and are willing to absorb short-term economic pain in order to best emerge from this crisis in a position to get the economy back to full speed and preserve jobs and livelihoods.

We are acting, in this regard, in the best interest of our more than 37,000 employees in Thailand and our other stakeholders.

Thank you again for your strong leadership in these challenging times.

Yours sincerely,
William E Heinecke
Chairman
Minor International Pcl.

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