Thai Journalist Apologizes for Failure to Recognize Lao PM

Thai newscasters apologize for failing to recognize Laos Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh
Thai newscasters apologize for failing to recognize Laos Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh.

Thai newscaster Sophon Ong-karn has apologized for a gaffe during live television yesterday during which he failed to recognize the Prime Minister of Laos, Phankham Viphavanh.

The incident occurred during a broadcast of the News Hour program on Thai News 1 as newscasters discussed the US-ASEAN Special Summit.

In a clip that quickly went viral across Laos, Sophon and his partner, Usanee Ekusanee, appear stumped when an image of Prime Minister Phankham appears on screen.


Sophon is heard asking, “wait, who is the man in this image? Which leader is he?”

He then made a comment regarding Phankham’s height before his partner Usanee responded by saying, “I don’t know [who this is]. I don’t know, let’s move on.”

Needless to say, netizens in Laos were unhappy about the incident, calling for an apology from Thailand.

And, as on previous occasions, the apology arrived tout suite, after the Lao Journalist’s Association contacted colleagues in Thailand to inform them of the error.


“Yesterday I made a mistake as I was unable to recognize the Prime Minister of Laos,” said Sophon.

“There were many representatives there [at the US-ASEAN Summit] that I did not recognize. I apologize to Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh and to the people of Laos.”

Sophon said he would definitely never forget Phankham after this, and finished by placing his hands together in a respectful nop, or wai.

Deep-seated Rivalry Sees Remarks Cut Deep 

With mutually intelligible languages, such incidents have become commonplace, and off-the-cuff remarks by Thai journalists sometimes cut deep.

Media personality Thanom Onketphon was forced to apologize after criticizing the Laos-China Railway last year.

He said that due to modest salaries, Lao people would not be riding the train, while the government of Laos would likely be unable to repay its loans to China.

Mr. Thanom made a formal apology on his television program the following day.

Previous incidents have seen Thai journalists criticize the public health system and the road network in Laos.