BANGKOK, Aug 30 – Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has defended Malaysia’s large haul of gold medals in the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games, saying that “it was normal” for the host country due to the better preparations they made. Although applauding the admirable performance put up by Thailand’s athletes in the biennial games, he noted that “certain sports associations” in the country were still beset by problems and wanted it fixed once they return home.
“It is normal that the host country would get more (gold medals) following their preparations. It is the same when we were the host country, when we also could manage the types of sport and this time they (Malaysia) had better preparations,” he told the media at the Government House here today.
Despite coming second behind Malaysia in the overall medal tally and losing the regional crown, the Prime Minister insisted that he was still happy with their excellent performance and for putting up a good effort during the multi-sport games. “I am happy that we finished in the second place even though I wanted them to finish first,” he said.
Prayut’s comments came following a wave of criticism hurled by Thai media and fans against Malaysia and aspects of its hosting of the SEA Games, especially the officiating. Besides criticising the hosts over trivial matters that happened during the Games such as lack of food and transportation for athletes, they also accused Malaysia of committing unsportsmanlike behaviour in its quest to collect the most gold medal and become the overall champion.
An English newspaper, Bangkok Post in an article titled An ugly tradition continues in Malaysiatoday, said, emotions are running high among Thai fans and journalists who vented their anger by dubbing the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games as “SEA Kong” or (SEA Cheating).
It also said that head of the Thai contingent to the Games, Thana Chaiprasit had claimed that the officiating at Kuala Lumpur SEA Games was the worst compared to other SEA Games as well as the Olympic and Asian Games. He also claimed officials from other countries shared his views.
Despite the harsh views held by the Bangkok Post, another popular English daily, The Nation was more introspective in its assessment of Thailand’s performance during the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games, choosing to blame the declining quality of its athletes instead at Malaysia. In a scathing remark aimed at the country’s sports authorities, The Nation in its editorial several days ago said Thailand had largely failed in the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games.
“At Kuala Lumpur 2017, Thailand largely failed in ‘international sports’. In other words, if regional (traditional) sports performance is removed from the medal table, the Kingdom will still trail Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam,” it said. The inclusion of traditional sports in the SEA Games said the newspaper, has been used as an excuse by Thailand if it loses its regional domination to Malaysia, but it cannot rely on that argument anymore. — Bernama