Phuket Opinion: A word worth one million baht
PHUKET: It is highly unlikely that the story of Russian tourist Oleg Fomenko, who recently went on a drunken rampage at Wat Karon, will be rememberd as a highlight in the relations between Thailand and Russia.
Friday 1 November 2013, 04:55PM
It will however stand as significant in how it represents the current approach of the Russian Federation in positioning itself abroad.
Russian authorities annually allocate millions of rubles to building a positive image of the country on the international stage. This significant investment includes the production of promotional newspapers, magazines and various television broadcasts.
Vast sums of money are also spent in organising numerous festivals and Russian holiday celebrations.
A common thread in Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s rhetoric are the benefits of ‘soft power’ (the ability to attract and co-opt rather than coerce, use force or give money as a means of persuasion) as an alternative to being in the ‘nuclear club’.
In many regards, Russia is gradually finding its feet in the world of modern diplomacy and leaving behind the methods employed during the Cold War.
And then all of a sudden something unsightly happens, in plan sight, just like this week’s incident at Wat Karon. Not huge in global terms, or an event to dramatically affect the course of the future, but it certainly and very quickly trumps all previously good-minded efforts on a local level.
One wave of a crowbar in Phuket easily smashes all diplomatic initiatives, nullifying the efforts of many and wasting taxpayers' money.
But even greater resentment grows from the fact that one phone call – that has not been made – could remedy this situation.
A simple statement from the Russian embassy could easily be made, saying that they do not consider the behaviour of Mr Fomenko acceptable.
Local people in Karon are waiting for this gesture. They demand this gesture. A simple phone call is worth a million rubles in negating bad publicity.
But while the Russian authorities continue to stonewall, Anton Makhrov, editor of our sister publication Novotski Phuketa, would like to say the following on behalf of the Russian community in Thailand.
“Forgive us Phuket. Not all of us are like this.”