Nok Air sorry for ex-PM crash ‘joke’

Yingluck Shinawatra’s fortunes have plummeted from receiving Barack Obama to being ridiculed by budget flight crews. Source: Wikimedia

Nok Air, one of Thailand’s budget airline, has apologised after one of its pilots joked about crashing a plane carrying the ousted prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

It highlights how contentious the Shinawatra political clan remains two years after Yingluck was removed from power by the military in a May 2014 coup.

Her opponents claim she is a puppet of her brother Thaksin, another deposed former prime minister, who now lives in self-imposed exile as he faces corruption charges in his homeland.

The military is rewriting the constitution and has banned political campaigning ahead of a referendum on the new charter on August 7.

Yingluck is touring with a “fighting with smiles” tour, which she claims is to celebrate reaching 5 million Facebook followers.

The pilot’s leaked remarks were made in a social media group used by Nok Air pilots.

A picture of Yingluck about to board a Nok Air flight was posted over the weekend, attracting the comment “We have prey on board”. Another wrote “CFIT”.

CFIT is an aviation acronym for “controlled flight into terrain”, describing a pilot unintentionally crashing an aeroplane that has no technical difficulties.

She is often mocked by Thailand’s educated elite for her alleged low intelligence and her inability to speak English.

Nok Air’s CEO Patee Sarasin wrote an open apology to Yingluck, saying that the pilots were not representing company policy.

“The airline affirms that we work with good governance to serve all passengers equally with no discrimination,” Patee said.

Panthongtae Shinawatra, the son of Yingluck’s brother Thaksin Shinawatra, who was toppled as prime minister by an earlier coup in 2006, posted the leaked chat on his Facebook.

“Even if the messages about passengers were just kidding, they count as illegal and unacceptable,” Thaksin’s son posted.

In 2012 Cathay Pacific sacked a Thai member of the cabin staff after she announced on Facebook that she wanted to throw hot coffee the face of Thaksin’s daughter.

The Shinawatra family is hugely popular in Isaan, Thailand’s north and northeast, where his populist policies have ensured Thaksin and his allies have won every democratic election since 2001.

Yingluck said in a Facebook post that “private attitudes should not be link with professional services”.