BANGKOK – Thailand's military ruler apologized Thursday for suggesting that foreigners visiting the country's world-famous beaches might be unsafe wearing bikinis in the wake of the killing of two British tourists this week.
The bodies of the man and woman were found bludgeoned on the scenic resort island of Koh Tao on Monday, dealing another blow to a tourist industry which has been struggling to recover since the army seized power in May.
Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha's comments Wednesday triggered an uproar on social media and one British tabloid, the Daily Mail, ran a front-page headline accusing him of "Smearing ... Britons Murdered in Paradise."
Prayuth had said that foreigners visiting the Southeast Asian country think "they can do whatever they want, wear bikinis wherever they like ... (but) will they be safe?"
On Thursday, however, he backtracked.
"I apologize that I have spoken too harshly ... I didn't mean to criticize or look down on anyone. Today I can guarantee that Thailand is still safe ... I wanted to warn (the tourists) to be careful," he said.
Although Thailand is infamous worldwide as a freewheeling hub of sex tourism, its culture is fairly conservative with many Thai women preferring to don shorts rather than bikinis on the beach.
The killings of the two Britons remain unsolved and no arrests have been made.