Associated Press, April 21, 1998

Finnish Diplomat's Wife Apologizes for Slapping Thai Boy

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) The wife of a Finnish diplomat has apologized for slapping a Thai boy she believed threw water on her during traditional New Year celebrations last week, Thai newspapers reported today.

The slapping, in the coastal resort of Pattaya, had threatened to turn into a minor diplomatic incident and the apology had to be mediated by the deputy governor of Chon Buri province, where Pattaya is located.

Eila Annikki Aittola, wife of the first secretary of the Finnish Embassy, hit the 4-year-old boy in the face after being doused with water during the April 13 festivities, which are celebrated in part by soaking a passerby. The boy was knocked to the ground and, his parents said, suffered a mild fever and mental stress afterward.

On Monday, Aittola traveled to Pattaya and apologized to the boy and his family, newspapers reported.

She had contended she was going out to dinner and saw that the boy and friends were about to hurl water. She asked them not to, but they ignored her and she slapped the boy in retaliation.

The boy's parents, who described the blow as a "human-rights violation," maintained their son was not the one who threw water at Aitolla.

Thais frown upon corporal punishment and Aittola and her entourage were reportedly surrounded by an angry crowd before police intervened.

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