Thai restaurant in California forced to close amid racist dog meat rumours

The Tasty Thai restaurant in Fresno, California, was forced to temporarily close its doors after racist rumours spread online that the owners were selling dog meat.

Seemingly out of nowhere, a string of negative and nasty reviews about Tasty Thai, a six month old restaurant, popped up on Yelp on Monday night. But the reviews were not about the food.

“It was basically ‘go back to the country you came from you mother effing dog eater,” Thai restaurant owner David Rasavong told local newspaper ABC30.

“These types of disgusting allegations, especially a stereotype, this Asian stereotype that I really can’t believe still exists. It’s hard for me to fathom that it still exists in this day and age.”

Rasavong reported the comments, but they didn’t stop. The same racist allegation, amid threats, was posted again and again.

Confused about what started the rumours, Rasavong did some digging and found a video circulating on social media of a pit bull tied up outside the house next to his restaurant. A woman named Maria Alvarez Garcia posted a video of herself scolding the pit bull’s owner, claiming the dog was close to heat stroke. She suggested the adjoining Thai restaurant was selling dog meat.

“That’s when I knew that triggered it and that’s when just the world just kind of came crashing in on us, you know,” said Rasavong. He said he doesn’t even know the owner of the house next door to Tasty Thai.

Garcia, who filmed the clip, said, “When I saw that, yeah, I got pretty upset because it was cruel and inhuman the way that dog was.”

But it was Garcia who triggered the rumours, with a Facebook comment…

“They have different dogs every week and then they disappear. Sadly, Fresno PD nor humans gave a damn about saving this poor dog. There is also a market attached to this house. Maybe selling the meat too? Disturbing. But hopefully, with this, we are saving a lot more babies. Please share share share.”

When reporters grilled Garcia, she panicked…

“I never once reached out to that restaurant and posted anything negative or not even aware or not even on Yelp… You know I’m not going to do that.”

“But you did comment on Facebook that you believed that they were selling dog meat,” replied the reporter.

“At the beginning, yes. A lot of people believed that. A lot of people thought that they were related and that they were connected together. Yes, a lot of people believed that. A lot of people.”

“But you’re saying you never said that, but you did in fact, say that on Facebook,” replied the reporter.

“No, that’s not what I said.”

A couple of days later Garcia posted another video asking people to stop attacking Rasavong and his restaurant. She said the focus should be on the dog.

“We are demanding that the dog is okay and it’s [not] falling on deaf ears, just like the other accusations, just like the other reports.”

However, Fresno Police investigated and found no evidence that the dog tied up outside is being abused.

Yelp took down the negative reviews and Fresno PD is investigating the comments to determine whether anyone committed a hate crime.

But the damage to Tasty Thai is already done, and Rasavong said he has had no choice but to close his doors to customers for now after receiving threats. He said…

“We’re talking hundreds of comments, thousands of views and tens of thousands of views… So it feels like damage, unfortunately, has been done.”

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Leah is a translator and news writer for the Thaiger. Leah studied East Asian Religions and Thai Studies at the University of Leeds and Chiang Mai University. Leah covers crime, politics, environment, human rights, entertainment, travel and culture in Thailand and southeast Asia.