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  1. Slow pipes leave Pattaya water trucks awash in business With water pressure running low in many areas, water suppliers are awash in business in Pattaya. Earlier facing the threat of the worst water shortage Pattaya has seen in five years, the Provincial Waterworks Authority last year cut water pressure in some areas by as much as 20 percent. That means water runs more slowly and sometimes even stops, most recently last week. In South Pattaya and along Thepprasit Road water trucks have been doing good business, selling water for 10-13 baht a liter. One driver said he normally does three or four deliveries a day but is now doing as many as 10. His biggest customers, he said, are condominiums, apartments and private homes. Water levels in the nearby Chaknok and Mabprachan reservoirs have dropped significantly, with underwater plant life now peeking above the surface in some places. PWA Pattaya Manager Suthat Nutchpan said people should not normally experience water outages. If they occur it’s because of a line break somewhere. He also reassured residents that there is enough water through at least June, but still encouraged people to conserve. Pattaya One News
  2. TM28: Thai immigration scraps requirement for foreigners to report when they stay away from home for 24 hours There is some good news for foreigners in Thailand. Thai immigration have all but scrapped the controversial TM28 change of address reporting requirement for foreigners. According to the new requirement, while TM28 is still listed, a long list of exceptions have been added, which for all intents and purposes means that almost no one is now required to submit a TM28 form. The list of exceptions, covered in sections 2.2 and 2.3 [here], includes just about every foreigner in Thailand, from diplomats and those performing official duties through to students, those working in Thailand, foreigners married to a Thai or who are a parent to a Thai child and those staying in Thailand for retirement. According to the immigration website, the regulation regarding TM28 is dated February 14 but came into effect on January 28. However, foreigners need to be aware that they are still required to inform immigration if they change address permanently. [This is covered in form TM27]. For example, if you rent a condo for say 6 months then you move to live in another condo, you need to inform immigration of your new address. The previous requirement stated that foreigners who had stayed in another province for more than 24 hours were required to inform their local immigration office when they returned. For example, if a foreigner who lives in Pattaya went and stayed at a friend’s place in Bangkok overnight, they would be required to inform immigration once they returned to Pattaya. The reality was TM28, which is listed under section 37 of the Immigration Act and has been a requirement since 1979, was seldom enforced by Thai immigration and hardly ever completed by foreigners after returning from an overnight stay elsewhere in Thailand. Many foreigners, including those who have lived in Thailand for a number of years, didn’t even know the requirement existed. At least that was the case until last year when TM28 briefly started being more strictly enforced by some immigration offices. This coincided with immigration also strictly enforcing TM30 - the requirement for hotels, guesthouses and property owners to report foreigners staying at their address. (TM30 often gets confused with TM28, with TM30 sometimes used as a kind of catch-all term to describe both but they are actually two separate requirements - and TM30 is still required.). The sudden enforcement of both TM28 and TM30 resulted in Thai immigration being on the receiving end of fierce criticism from the expat community and foreign business leaders in Thailand, who said TM28 was not just inconvenient but archaic, draconian and not fit for purpose today. A group of expats in Thailand even launched an online petition calling for the TM28 and TM30 to be abolished. And while the petition failed to reach its target for sign ups, it undoubtedly helped to bring the issue to the attention of senior immigration officials in Thailand. The subject also received widespread negative coverage in both Thai and English language media in Thailand and was also covered by international news outlets including the BBC and Nikkei Asian Review. The updated regulation regarding TM28 can be found on the Immigration website: https://www.immigration.go.th/read?content_id=5e468147cf638702b11f9cb9 thaivisa.com
  3. Thailand confirms fifth case of China Coronavirus BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand on Friday confirmed its fifth case of the new coronavirus, a senior public health official said, in the second instance in which a patient was not detected at the airport before entering the country. “The patient is a 33-year-old woman from Wuhan on vacation,” Deputy Public Health Minister Sathit Patucha told Reuters, adding that she was under quarantine at Rajavithi hospital and her condition was improving. The woman arrived in Bangkok on Jan. 21 with her daughter and visited a private hospital complaining of a fever, coughing and muscle aches before being transferred to a government hospital on Jan. 23, Sathit said. Her daughter tested negative for the virus. A Thai woman who contracted the virus after spending the New Year in Wuhan was admitted to Nakhon Pathom hospital, 60 km (40 miles) west of Bangkok, on Jan. 15 and discharged on Friday after lab tests cleared her of the virus, the Public Health Ministry said in a statement. Thailand currently has two patients under quarantine for the virus. China has stepped up measures to contain the virus, which has killed 25 people and infected more than 800, with public transport suspensions in 10 cities, temples shutting, and the rapid construction of a new hospital to treat those infected. The Wuhan airport was closed on Jan. 23.
  4. Temporary disruptions set to begin soon in Walking Street More disruptions are set to begin in Pattaya soon and this time to the world-famous Walking Street. Until now the work to install larger drainage pipes to try and curb seasonal flooding, plus remove the over-head cables and move them underground has been postponed. However, a decision has been made to start the work needed and this is set to begin imminently. The repair work will last for the next several months and business owners are now starting to brace themselves for the disruptions. Officials have said that business operators will be greatly affected as portions of the street will be under construction, however, hopefully people will understand that this short term disruption will be better in the long run. Construction is set to take about 3 months to complete.
  5. Flights to Heathrow diverted after RAF demands use of airspace Flights were held or diverted after the RAF requested the use of Heathrow’s airspace (Picture: Getty) Dozens of flights to Heathrow Airport were diverted or delayed today after the RAF requested use of its airspace. At least five British Airways planes and one Virgin Atlantic flight were understood to have been diverted to other airports. The incident at Britain’s busiest airport in west London was ‘unplanned’ a spokesperson for Heathrow said. Some planes reportedly became ‘stacked’ in the skies around Greater London waiting for clearance to land. Passengers claimed they were told by pilots that their flights were being held due to a ‘security incident’ but the airport has denied this. Five British Airways planes and one Virgin Atlantic flight was understood to have been diverted to other airports (Picture: AFP) A spokesperson for Heathrow said: ‘Arrivals were paused briefly this morning due to an RAF request for an operational flight within part of Heathrow’s airspace. ‘Arrivals are now operating as normal.’ A Ministry of Defence spokesman confirmed it had coordinated a flight through the airspace. He added: ‘The RAF can confirm that a flight was completed this morning by one of our assets from RAF Northolt, this flight was coordinated with Heathrow ATC but had to extend by a few minutes to complete its sortie. ‘The minor delays caused to civilian air traffic are regretted.’
  6. Vietjet Air launches direct route from Ho Chi Minh City to Pattaya VIETNAM (VOV)- The low-cost carrier Vietjet Air have recently opened a direct air route connecting Ho Chi Minh City with Pattaya in Thailand, with four return flights per week. The Ho Chi Minh City – Pattaya air route came into operation from December 23, with flights departing on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays.The duration of each flight is one hour and 30 minutes, with departures from Ho Chi Minh City taking place at 13:25 before arrival at U-tapao International Airport in Pattaya at 14:40. Return flights will see departures from U-tapao International Airport at 11:25 before arriving back in Ho Chi Minh City at 12:55. Flight VZ970 made its debut on December 23 after departing from U-tapao International Airport. Passengers onboard had the opportunity to enjoy a number of exciting performances on the flight and received several gifts courtesy of Vietjet Air. As a way of welcoming the latest route, the airline has offered a series of promotional tickets to customers priced from zero VND, excluding taxes and fees, over nine days between December 23 to December 31. Promotional tickets are only applicable to new routes between Ho Chi Minh City and Pattaya which take place between December 24 and March 31, 2020, except for periods such as holidays and the New Year. This promotion is on offer to those who purchase tickets via Vietjet Air’s offical website, the mobile application, and the “Booking” section on Facebook. Customers are able to pay with Vietjet Skyclub, Visa, Master, AMEX, JCB, KCP, UnionPay, and ATM cards of 34 major Vietnamese banks that have an Internet Banking registration. Following the opening of the new route, Vietjet Air bolsters their position as one of the largest operators between Vietnam and Thailand with a total of eight routes, including to Bangkok from Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Hai Phong, and Da Lat, to Phuket and Chiang Mai from Ho Chi Minh City, in addition to the latest route between Ho Chi Minh City and Pattaya. The latest air service to Pattaya is expected to greatly contribute to increasing the number of tourists that travel between Vietnam’s southern provinces and the Rayong and Pattaya region, in addition to facilitating the international visitors’ travel through both Tan Son Nhat International Airport and U-Tapao International Airport.
  7. New rules for Royal road motorcades around Thailand His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn has expressed concern about the motorcades of Royal Family members inconveniencing public road users. Around Thailand, when a member of the Royal Family travels by road, the roads are routinely closed off and hundreds of police stationed along the well-planned route to hold off traffic until the motorcade has passed through. Now HM The King has ordered the Royal Thai Police to come up with new rules for the royal motorcades that would prioritise public traffic and cause less inconvenience. Whilst there has been no ground swell of angst from the public over the Royal motorcade road closures, His Majesty has been proactive in relieving any potential problems as more traffic heads out onto Thai roads every day. The Royal Thai Police have responded by announcing 10 new rules regarding royal motorcades… 1 No traffic lanes will be closed to facilitate royal motorcades in the future 2 On the motorcade route, traffic lanes will be divided into a motorcade lane while the rest will remain public lanes, using dividers as traffic cones, lighting signs, intelligent signs, etc. 3 The lanes on the opposite side of the motorcade route will remain open as usual. If the road does not have a street island, dividers such as traffic cones will be deployed to ensure public safety. 4 Traffic lanes merging into the motorcade route at a junction will be open as usual, using traffic cones to guide traffic flow 5 U-turn bridges and crossing bridges that fly over the motorcade route will be open as usual 6 At toll booths, only two rightmost lanes will be reserved for the motorcade, while the rest will be open to public vehicles. Traffic cones will be deployed on the left lanes to guide public vehicles into and out of the booths. 7 No one will be forced to change direction at junctions and crossroads along the motorcade routes. The public’s intention to use the roads in their original direction must be preserved as a priority 8 Traffic cones and lighting signs must be deployed in a suitable place that does not result in loss of traffic lanes or causes the public inconvenience 9 Consider employing appropriate public relations measures to notify road users of optimal routes with the highest convenience and safety 10 Police commanders of all levels must supervise the route administration in person and make sure to use suitable manners and speech when addressing the public to avoid causing them to feel being forced or limited in their transport routes. SOURCE: The Nation
  8. Philippines warns of 'explosive eruption' after Taal Volcano spews ash near Manila. Manila, Philippines (CNN)Philippine authorities have urged a "total evacuation" of nearly half a million people near the capital Manila, after a volcano spewed ash up to nine miles (14 kilometers) into the air Sunday prompting warnings of a possible "explosive eruption." The Taal Volcano, about 37 miles (60 kilometers) south of the capital Manila on the island of Luzon, is one of the country's most active. Images from the scene on Monday showed streams of lava beginning to gush out the volcanic vent, the sky above still thick and dark with ash and steam. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) has raised the alert level to four, meaning an "explosive eruption" could happen in the coming hours or days. Its highest alert level is five, indicating an eruption is taking place. People watch plumes of smoke and ash rise from Taal Volcano on January 12, 2020, in Tagaytay outside Manila, Philippines. In explosive eruptions, magma is fragmented and violently expelled from the volcano -- think of a soda can after being shaken -- as opposed to thick lava oozing out. Taal Volcano isn't actually very big -- but it's considered among the world's most dangerous, owing to the number of people that live in its immediate vicinity, said Erik Klemetti, a volcanologist at Denison University. PHIVOLCS has requested a "total evacuation" of everyone within a 17-kilometer (10.5 miles) radius around the volcano. This area, considered a volcanic danger zone, is home to more than 450,000 residents, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. As of Monday, more than 16,400 people had sought shelter in temporary evacuation centers set up by the authorities. The total number of evacuees is likely to be higher, however, with many people choosing to stay with family members and relatives in other parts of the country. Federal authorities are helping the response and evacuation operation. The army sent 20 military vehicles and 120 personnel to help affected residents, and the secretary of national defense said helicopters were on standby to evacuate people. The defense secretary also urged residents near the eruption to evacuate, and not to hesitate in leaving their homes. Aid organizations like the Red Cross are assisting on the ground by sending rescue vehicles and supplies. Photos: Taal Volcano erupts in Philippines Residents prepare their boats to evacuate while the Taal Volcano erupts in Talisay, Philippines, on Monday, January 13. Tens of thousands were evacuated and tremors were felt in nearby villages amid an eruption of the country's second-most-active volcano near Manila. Residents within the immediate area are most at risk from the effects of a potential eruption, including a possible volcanic tsunami in the lake surrounding the volcano, according to PHIVOLCS. There are 10 cities and municipalities surrounding the volcano, some lying outside that evacuation radius -- and they are home to nearly 760,000 people, PHIVOLCS said. The lava now beginning to erupt is dangerous, Klemetti said, as it's creating "a big lava fountain" that could then spill into nearby towns. But volcanic ash is the biggest danger, said Joseph Michalski, director of the Earth and Planetary Science division at the University of Hong Kong. "The ash is what will kill you, not the lava," Michalski told CNN. "The ash flow from an exploding volcano can travel hundreds of kilometers an hour." Other threats include deadly toxic gases emitted from the eruption, and mud flows caused by ash mixing with water vapor in the atmosphere, Michalski added. A resident clears mud and ash in Tanauan town on January 13, 2020. If it erupts again, the ash -- which carries microscopic shards of glass -- could potentially be carried 100 kilometers (62 miles) or more, contaminating the air and water supplies in distant locations. More than 25 million people live within 100 kilometers of the volcano. "(The shards of glass) are hazardous to lungs," Michalski said. "You don't want stuff like that in your lungs. It can get lodged in there and make you quite ill." Michalski said it's too early to tell just how big the impending eruption could be -- Taal Volcano has a long history of frequent, small eruptions. However, it's also potentially more dangerous than other volcanoes because of its location on a lake -- the interaction of magma with water can make a volcanic eruption much more explosive. On Sunday, the volcanic ash spread as far as Quezon City north of Manila, prompting the suspension of all flights at the capital's international airport. A vehicle covered in ash mixed with rainwater after Taal Volcano erupted on January 12, 2020 in Talisay, Philippines. Photos from the aftermath on Sunday show ash mixing with rain, creating a thick black sludge that blanketed cars, streets, and homes in some towns. Ash is even heavier than snow, meaning excessive pile-ups, especially when mixed with rain, can cause roofs to collapse. Apart from immediate health hazards and structural damage, a potential eruption could also bring long-term consequences for the area's economy. The volcano is surrounded by a lake, which is a popular attraction -- meaning many of the towns in the vicinity are tourism hot spots. There are several amusement parks, lakeside resorts and yacht clubs within the 17-kilometer evacuation zone. The holiday town of Tagaytay, which lies close to the water's edge, is a popular getaway for Manila residents who often take boats onto the lake and hike up the volcano. Lightning strikes as a column of ash surrounds the crater of Taal Volcano as it erupts on January 12, 2020. The future of this tourism economy could depend on how destructive the potential second eruption is -- if it's big enough, it could wipe out the entire volcanic island in the middle of the lake, said Michalski. It could also serve a severe blow to the many farmers and fishermen who live in the area and rely on the lake and its surrounding land for their livelihoods. The volcano has seen powerful eruptions before -- one eruption in 1754 lasted six months, and its deadliest eruption took 1,335 lives in 1911. It erupted again in 1965, killing 190 people, and continued to have four more minor eruptions in the years since. Mariton Bornas, chief of volcano monitoring at PHIVOLCs, said that the agency had monitored tremors at the volcano as early as March 2019 -- but they were surprised by the rapid speed of the eruption on Sunday. CNN's Eric Cheung and Amanda Jackson contributed to this report.
  9. Top 10 scams in Thailand (2019) PHOTO: Thai Travel News Firstly, I should say that just about any hot tourist spot around the world is going to attract people, sometimes greedy locals, who will be specialists at extracting dollars from your pockets. In Thailand the main difference is that they will usually do it with a smile. There are scams awaiting tourists who come to Thailand and you are best served by spending a few minutes reading articles like this and saving yourself a lot of financial pain, inconvenience or even a trip to hospital. Or jail. This is by no means a definitive list of scams awaiting you but these are, at least, ten popular scams that you will have to negotiate if you move about Thailand. They’re real, they happen every day and you’ll have a much better time during your trip if you know about them first. In all cases, a bit of homework beforehand will save you being tricked during your holiday. Here are our Top 10 Scams in Thailand. 1. The jewellery scam If you want to buy jewellery or luxury goods in Thailand, don’t ask you taxi or tuk tuk driver or take advice from the nice man who offered to take you a store who stopped you in the street. Jewellery stores in Thailand seem to exist for one purpose… taking money from tourists as part of one of the oldest scams in the Land of Smiles. Yes, there are reputable jewellery and gem stores but you can usually source them and their prices online before you arrive. There are plenty of jewellery stores that have been specifically constructed to cater for Chinese bus tour groups. You will see the buses lined up, any day of the week, with hordes of hapless Chinese tourists being guided through these grand shops, many several stories high and designed to part the tourists from their money. Many of these buildings are much grander than any other buildings around them – they weren’t built like that to provide you with a really good deal. (Many Chinese tours include visits to these stores as compulsory items in their itinerary and the tour groups and bus drivers can get up to 50% commissions. The whole system is a well-oiled machine.) If your driver taxi or tuk tuk offers to take you to a jewellery store just be firm, but polite, and refuse their generous offer. If you actually do want to buy jewellery, don’t go to the stores they recommend. The concept of the jewellery scam could also be used with the local ‘export centre’, ‘factory outlet store’ or ‘I have a friend who has a shop’. Caveat emptor! 2. Tuk Tuks and taxis The Tuk Tuk is different things in different parts of Thailand. In Bangkok the three wheeled tourist tuk tuks are no so much a scam, rather just expensive. But as part of the fabric of Bangkok’s tourist machine they’re worthy of at least ride. Most of this section is about the Phuket Tuk Tuk and taxi scams. Phuket’s Tuk Tuks are the ubiquitous (usually red), three cylinder Daihatsu open mini-vans that are completely the wrong design for having to drive over Phuket’s many steep hills. Somehow they stutter and creep their way over the hills. Most of the time you’ll just use them for a quick hop from your restaurant or ‘night out’ back to your hotel or from your hotel to a local tourist attraction. If you ever thought things in Thailand were cheap, using a tuk tuk or local taxi will quickly change your mind. Even a short journey from one end of Patong to the other is going to cost you 200 baht+, usually more. They don’t have meters. Most taxis do have meters but they never seem to work (if your taxi does have an operational meter please take a photo and send it to the ‘Believe it or Not Museum’). The taxis ones that do have meters are frequently ‘turbo-charged’ so they tick over much faster than they’re meant to, especially the taxis from the airport. Doing town to town journeys will cost you 500 baht+. Going to the airport from Patong is going to cost you 600 baht+. Taxis from the airport are really expensive when compared to taxi prices almost anywhere in the world This doesn’t apply to Bangkok, just to Phuket. There will no shortage of shouts of ‘taxi’ as you emerge from the arrivals area at Phuket Airport. If you do want a taxi, head to the Taxi counter, at least here it’s semi-organsised although no-less expensive. Even better, get your hotel to organise a pick-up for you – someone will be waiting for you with your name on a sign. If it’s a really flash hotel they’ll usually have your name on an iPad or tablet these days. Many hotels include the cost of the pick-up in their reservation fees – check when you’re booking. The taxi and tuk tuk services in Phuket are not technically a scam – more of a minor case of extortion. Most of the time the drivers know where they’re going and are polite and friendly enough. But they’re a law unto themselves and have been fighting successive government attempts to regulate them. In Phuket they’re described as the ‘taxi mafia’ for good reason. Feel free to barter your price before you get in a tuk tuk for your journey. But make sure you DO agree on a price before you get underway. If they offer to take you to a jewellery store, attraction or market on the way to wherever you’re going, politely decline. And then, more specifically…. 3. The ‘attraction’s closed’ scam More likely to happen in Bangkok. But it goes something like this…. You roll up to any well-known attraction and, before you can get to the gate, a friendly, affable local will kindly inform you that the attraction is closed. This may be despite there being long queues waiting to get in or the fact that your hotel and taxi driver already informed you that the attraction is open. If you know, for a fact, that the venue is open politely thank them for their advice and that you’re just going to check for yourself. Smile and say goodbye. If you do end up in a conversation with them you’ll be advised about an alternative attraction that is older, bigger, more spectacular and ‘very close by’ (which usually means 30 minutes away). On the way to this completely unheard of attraction you’ll be taken to jewellery stores and markets and offered any number of ‘real’ bargains – a guarantee that you’re paying well over the market price, plus commission. If you do ever get to the ‘alternative’ attraction you’ll be paying them the entrance fee, magically about twice the entrance fee you see on the gate. These are just straight out scams designed to part you from your money and to sell you things you had no intention to buy. Plan your day’s trips ahead, check Google, TripAdvisor and ask your hotel for advice. 4. Sex shows Now, officially, they don’t exist anywhere in Thailand. In reality, they do. And those ping pong shows your friends have told you about? Yes, they’re real. (For the younger people reading here, the ping pong shows are excellent displays of table tennis skills). So you’re walking down Bangla Road in Phuket, Walking Street in Pattaya or Patpong in Bangkok. You will be approached by ten, twenty… more, people with cards and the big sales pitch “Sexy Girl”. That’s sure to get you in. You’ll be taken to a seedy, dark, usually upstairs venue. Downstairs the drinks are at set-prices. In these dodgy upstairs venues the prices are ‘variable’ (read: VERY EXPENSIVE). You will indeed see a show, probably a lot briefer and less explicit than you imagined, and also asked to buy the girls a few drinks. Then you’ll be ‘invited’ to pay large tips to the performers (‘invited’ means coerced/forced by a few large gentleman with poor hygiene). And if you DO get invited to a ping-pong show you won’t need to take your own table tennis paddle. 5. The jet ski rental scam So you’ve never been on a jet ski before and here you are on a tropical beach with warm, inviting waters. And a row of jet skis along the shore with helpful, suntanned guys in their bright coloured shorts eager to rent you a jetski. You’ve never ridden on a jetski? No problem. You don’t need a license or any of that nonsense. Just pay the guys and GO. The jet skis are easy enough to ride and, most of the time, you’ll have plenty of fun. But the smile will be taken off your face when you get back to the beach and a cursory inspection from the previously-helpful staff turns into accusations of damage to their jet ski. It could be a simple scratch to a huge gouge and it’s going to cost you 10,000, 20,000…. more, to get it fixed. You didn’t check for damage before you got on the jet ski? Bad luck. You didn’t take a photo of the jet ski before you blasted you way into the tranquil blue waters? Bad luck? No contract, no insurance. It’s a scam. Most of the time the situation can get very heated and a group of intimidating fellow jet ski owners will gather around and harass you, sometimes with threats of violence if you don’t pay up. Phuket, Pattaya, Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan and Hua Hin are the most likely places you’ll confront the jet ski scam. A few guidelines if you insist on renting a jetski. 1) Inspect the jet ski with the owner and take photos before you pay over your money. If there are marks take photos and point them out to the owner. 2) Ask them if there is insurance cover or a contract. If not, walk away. By law they’re required to cover you with basic insurance (which may or may not be a valid contract anyway). 3) If you do get into a situation where they are demanding money from you beyond what you agreed for rental get a tourist police officer on the spot ASAP, not the local boys-in-brown, a tourist police officer who will usually be dressed in a white shirt with black pants. 4) Don’t rent a jet ski. Here’s their website. Their phone number is 1155. If there are no tourist police around demand that you are able to contact your local consulate. DON’T leave the beach and go to the local police station. DO NOT hand over your passport for any reason at any time! Never. 6. Motorbike rental scams (and a few other problems) Not so much a scam but a list of potential problems you may confront with the rental of a local motorbike. Renting motorbikes in Thailand can provide you with a convenient and cheap means of transport ‘just like the locals’ or can get you in all sorts of trouble. You can end up in an accident, you can end up with your hotel room robbed, you can end up having to pay for damage to the bike you didn’t cause. Here’s the basics. Most motorbike rental is a fairly routine and well-organised affair. There are many reputable bike-hire places around and many hotels will have they own bikes to rent or have an arrangement, usually (hopefully) with a local reputable company who will deliver the bike to your hotel and even show you the basics of how to drive it. If you’ve never ridden a motorbike before, please, just don’t bother renting one. There are plenty of other modes of transport to get you anywhere you need to go. And just DON’T rent that shiny red Ducati or 500cc ‘whatever’ brand motorbike. Bigger bikes, bigger problem, bigger cost if you fall off and damage the bike. Here’s the problem. Most people, in fact the vast majority of motorbike renters, have NEVER ridden a motorbike in their life in they home country. In many cases they wouldn’t even consider renting a motorbike back home. But the visa stamp in their passport gives them permission to do really reckless things whilst in Thailand. There are a few situations to watch out for. 1) You should sign up for some insurance when you sign the contract. It may or may not be worth the paper it’s written on but at least it’s an ‘understanding’ that you have entered into a contract, in good faith, with the company. No contract? Walk away. 2) Problem with the bike? Flat tyre? Something’s fallen off? Engine won’t start? There are bike repair places ALL over Thailand. With so many motorbikes on the road it’s a thriving business keeping them all running. If you call the company you rented the bike from they will have their own, preferred, bike repair shop. One of the scams is that it’s a co-operation between the bike repair staff and the bike rental company. The bike contract will have your hotel details listed. They will come and steal the bike during the evening and you front up to the bike shop the next morning saying your motorbike’s been stolen. Of course you’ll be required to reimburse them for the cost of a new bike. So buy a cheap bike lock of your own and use that instead of the one provided by the rental company. 3) Wear a helmet. Apart from being the law in Thailand it’s also a very easy way for the local constabulary to stop you at the many checkpoints around the island, usually just before lunchtime, and hit you for an on-the-spot 500 baht fine. It’s also a great way to save smashing your head on the road if you do end up falling off or in an accident! WEAR YOUR BIKE HELMET. 4) If you do have an accident (remember Thailand is the fifth most dangerous place in the world for driving on the roads) you need to have all your ducks in a row. Do you have travel insurance covering treatment and a stay in hospital (bet you don’t)? Do you have an international drivers license covering the riding of motorbikes in a foreign country (probably not)? Does you insurance cover an accident on a motorbike in Thailand? Motorbike accident do happen, sadly quite frequently, and the consequences can be dire if you’re 1) in the wrong at the accident scene 2) your insurance doesn’t cover you. Here’s what you need to do so you have the minimum inconvenience in the eventuality of a motorbike accident (the same goes for car accidents but you’re more likely to get badly hurt if you have a crash on a motorbike). • No matter how you fall off a motorbike its probably going to hurt. Keep your wits about you. People will come to your aid but LEAVE the motorbike where it is – and insist the other bikes and cars in the accident do the same. Contact, if you can, the motorbike rental shop, the tourist police and your consulate. The local police will usually turn up in this sort of situation and, despite the occasional horror stories, won’t automatically side with the locals. Keep calm, accept help from the local paramedics – they know their job and attend many, many bike accidents every day. (There are a lot of private emergency services that get a fee from a hospital when they deliver a paying patient – hey, at least you know they’re keen to get to your accident scene quickly and ‘win’ your business) • If you don’t have insurance ask to be taken to a local public hospital. The Thai medical system is quite efficient and provides free medical care for all Thai citizens and expats working for a company – again, the hospitals will know how to treat motorbike accident injuries; they see them every single day. If you DO have valid travel insurance ask to be taken to one of the private hospitals. You’ll have to pay the medical bills but they will be a lot less than at a Thai private hospital. • Whilst your immediate medical situation may require you to get to hospital urgently it’s best, if you can, to wait for the police and make sure you have provided your side of the story. It will be REALLY helpful if you have a representative from the Tourist Police there to assist with translation and knows the system. • Don’t lose your cool, start shouting or blaming anyone. That simply won’t help at all. And don’t accept liability either. That’s for the police to determine. • Always carry your passport or a copy of your passport and copies of all your insurance papers when you move around the island. • Never, ever, hand over your passport. If the renters want a copy (and they’re well entitled for a copy of your passport), keep your passport in sight whilst they’re copying it. DON’T leave your passport with the rental company as a bond. Even better, have a photocopy of your passport with you at all times and a digital copy (take a photo of your passport front page) on your phone. 7. The fake consulate scam This scam targets tourists and expats crossing the border from Thailand to Cambodia in a taxi or tuk tuk. It can also involve just about any other border crossing from the Kingdom if you are being driven in a taxi or tuk tuk. You will pass signs reading “Cambodian Consulate” or “Insert-border-name-here Consulate” and you’ll be dropped out the front of an imposing and important looking building with very friendly and helpful people offering you simple and convenient visas… for a large fee, of course. The danger in this situation is when you merrily head back to wherever you were staying and then end up in all sorts of trouble when you depart the country through a proper immigration channel and find you’ve over-stayed your visa. Do your homework before you head to a border for a visa run and know where the consulates are so you don’t fall for this scam. 8. Time Shares The time share scam is different from the legitimate time share schemes offered around Thailand. But here’s some things to check before you sign up for ANYTHING. Do not sign a document in Thailand until you’ve consulted a proper Thai lawyer. The time share ’theory’ is that you’ll become a member of a larger group of people owning a share of a ‘title’ in a property or yacht. Usually foreign back-packers end up as the ones in the street politely stopping you and asking you to pick a card with the promise of a prize. Amazingly YOU always pick the card with the prize which is a free visit to a nearby, or sometimes not-nearby, resort or showroom – no obligation of course – where you will be courted with the ‘financial opportunities’ and ‘convenience’ of time share. 99% of the time it’s just heavy-handed sales and you could have spent the three hours on the beach or browsing the shops instead. Just ask straight up if it’s a time-share offer and then walk on by. 9. Bar girls If a lovely young lady in a pair of hot pants and high heels approaches you in the street and invites you to her bar, keep walking. Of course if you’re a single guy and an attractive lady approaches you you’re going to stop and listen, right? But a few things might happen. 1) The drinks are going to be really expensive 2) the young girl is going to invite you for few drinks – and one for her too – and then she’ll be gone to find the next victim with you left having to sort out the over-priced drinks bill with the older, fatter and less attractive male owner. 3) They’re not actually girls. Is this a scam or just good marketing? Whichever way you look at it you’re going to end up with expensive urine and perhaps a few other adventures along the way. If you do see a lovely lady with breasts that appear to be larger than you would normally find on the frame of a 5’2” girl, and in hot pants, and you do want to have a drink with her, suggest you both go to a bar of your choice and you’ll soon see how keen she really is. Also, if you’re 65, overweight, haven’t had a shave for three days and are wearing a 20 year old floral short-sleeved shirt, NO young girl is ever going to want to have a drink with you. 10. The tailor scam Can you purchase well made shirts and suits in Thailand? Yes. Can you end up paying more for them than you’d pay back home? Absolutely yes. If your taxi or tuk tuk driver has to stop off for a quick visit to the toilet and a friendly man approaches you and asks ‘where are you from?’, you know you’re about to be sold a suit. The ‘where are you from?’ is an age-old, tried and tested way or eliciting a response from you. To ignore it you seem rude, to answer it you already talking to them. The bottomline is that you’ll be told a story about an amazing tailor they know who makes suits better than Armani, etc, etc. You should already know that you’re talking to the middle man, or the friend of the middle man, so you’re in high-commission territory before you even get your inside leg measurement taken. There are many good tailors everywhere in Thailand, most of Indian or Nepalese origin. There is a thriving community of expats from these countries who do, indeed, have excellent skills as tailors. If you find one, tell us about it and we’ll pass it on. The rest, however, are just ways for them to take your money, the clothes are made off-site at virtual sweat-shops and the workmanship often sub-standard. If you do want a suit or clothes made (mostly you will NEVER need a suit in Thailand!), then ask around and get recommendations for a reputable tailor. Next time you get asked ‘where are you from’ just say you’re from ‘Thailand’. Whilst they’re thinking of a quick come-back you’re already gone. We welcome you to Thailand and hope this quick read may have given you a heads-up on some of the more popular scams you’re likely to confront. Keep in contact with The Thaiger by following our Facebook page.
  10. What goes up must come down – the battle of the baht The Thai baht continues to be the best performing currency in Asia. The Thai currency is riding a 6-year high against the USD and, this year, has surged 8% against the US currency. But the strong baht is causing knock-on effects to the rest of the Thai economy, battering exports and stifling tourist growth. Economists note Thailand’s solid economic fundamentals and stability, the current account surplus and high foreign reserves, together, are reasons the baht is so attractive to investors and currency speculators. So what can be done by Thai public servants and Bank of Thailand lever-pullers to dampen speculation on the poplar currency? In July 2019, the BOT lowered the cap on the outstanding balance of non-resident accounts by a third and cut its supply of three and six-month bonds at auctions in July and August. The BOT has also signalled plans to further relax restrictions on outward portfolio investment by Thai investors, which could stem currency appreciation. Then in August 2019, the BOT cut the policy rate by 25 basis points from 1.75 to 1.5%, a shift in the BOT policy stance since raising the rate by 25 basis points eight months before. The large amount of foreign exchange reserves (39.9% of the Thai GDP and over 200% of the IMF’s standard reserve adequacy metric) may put Thailand on the US watch list for currency manipulators. But overall, bold intervention by the BOT is unlikely despite the current challenges. Economist say that to try and tame offshore fund inflows, which are currently causing a rapid appreciation of the baht, could be effective at least in the short to medium term. But they warn that capital controls also have long-lasting adverse consequences, affecting the country’s economic credibility and financial markets. The most requested measure by Thailand’s business sector is for the BOT to cut the policy rate again. A common belief is that further rate cuts would make the Thai baht less attractive for foreign investors, reducing pressure on the baht. The bottomline for Thailand’s central bank should not be to subsidise a cheap export sales strategy if it interferes with the BOT’s main priority of economic stability. Exchange rate fluctuations are a modern fact of life for a floated international currency. As Sir Isaac said, more in reference to gravity than international currency trading, “what goes up must come down.” Eventually. https://thethaiger.com
  11. 10% THERE: SINGAPORE–LONDON LAST OVERLAND JOURNEY MAKES PITSTOP IN BANGKOK tenth of the way along its drive from Singapore to London, The Last Expedition’s team of eight said Monday that they’re feeling fine – despite rainstorms and a lack of air conditioning. The Last Expedition, an expedition of three Land Rovers making their way along one of the longest land routes on earth, made a pitstop in Bangkok Monday morning. “I’ve sweated through all my clothes. I’m wearing the only clothes I have left. Everything else is in the laundry,” expedition director Alex Bescoby said to the press at the Royal Bangkok Sports Club, laughing. “I’m so happy to be here so I can get some laundry done.” The expedition set out from Singapore on Aug. 25 and crossed over the Thai border on Friday in Songkhla province. The team plans to leave Bangkok on Tuesday, before stopping at Nakhon Sawan to camp for the night and leaving Thailand on Wednesday via Mae Sot in Tak province. Bescoby, charmingly rugged, is the team’s natural leader. Alex Bescoby. “It’s been amazing to see the changes. You start in Singapore and everything is super modern. Then we come to Malaysia we drove through the beautiful Cameron Highlands, and you’re in what feels like a rainforest. Then you’re driving through southern Thailand, and even from southern Thailand to central Thailand feels very different,” Bescoby said. The team plans to arrive in London on Nov. 29, or within 100 days of leaving. The entire journey is approximately 16,000 to 18,000 kilometers, Bescoby says. Read: Historic Singapore–London Overland Trip Will Pass Through Thailand So far they’ve driven 1,800 km, or 10 percent, and have been on the road for 8 days. “It feels like two months,” he said. “There’s a big party on November 29th in London. We can’t be late!” “What’s wonderful about this is that you see every mile. You’re not flying over it in a plane. You see the gradual change, the way people dress, the way people speak, different architecture, different religious buildings. It’s been amazing and we’ve only gone 10 percent of the way,” Bescoby said. The Last Expedition is a reverse journey and tribute to the 1955 Oxford and Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition, where six young men from the Oxbridge universities were the first to drive from London to Singapore. One of the Rovers used in the original journey, the Oxford, has been fixed up and is being driven in this expedition as well. “I think there’s something really special about using old technology to do a modern-day journey,” Bescoby said. “When you drive this car, you have to concentrate. You feel every single yard of the road. You feel the weather, you feel the temperature, and the response that people have given it has been amazing.” Unfortunately, 87-year-old Tim Slessor, one of the men from the original expedition who was slated to join the Last Overland, was too sick to travel with the company even though he had spent a year and a half planning the trip. Tim Slessor with “Oxford,” the Land Rover Series I he drove from London to Singapore in 1955 to 1956. He will be driving it again from Singapore to London on 25 August 2019. Photo: Klareco Communications / Courtesy “He’s 87 but full of fire. We planned this for 18 months. But one month ago he was in intensive care. That was unusual because he was so healthy. But he recovered and went to Singapore,” Bescoby said. “But in a cruel twist of fate, the morning of leaving, he had to stay in bed.” In a message presented to the press Monday, Slessor said that he would like to thank Thailand for welcoming his expedition 63 years ago, when there were no roads along the last 100 miles (160 kilometers) to the border. In his Bangkok pitstop back in 1956, he also stopped at the Royal Bangkok Sports Club. The team said they hope Slessor can recover and join them for at least part of the journey. Kevin Horsfield with Silverius Purba. Although Slessor was absent, 75-year-old Australian expat Kevin Horsfield came to the event with his Land Rover, one of the many Land Rover enthusiasts present. “I wanted to see this car because it’s not very much older than me,” he said, examining the Oxford. Khaosod English’s Facebook live with Alex Bescoby and Silverius Purba. The Team Three weeks before the expedition set off, as Slessor fell ill, the team added the last-minute member Nathan George, Slessor’s 22-year-old grandson. He’s the same age that Slessor was when he set out on the original journey. Driving north from Songkhla to Bangkok, George says he was drenched by rain leaking through the Oxford’s roof. “I was absolutely soaked. It was like a built-in shower,” George said. Nathan George, left. Therese-Marie Becker signs an autograph on a Land Rover top drawer for a Thai Land Rover enthusiast. Indonesian Silverius Purba is the team medic in charge of keeping the cars in shape, as well as the expedition’s security. “If the Land Rover leaks water and not oil, then it’s good,” he said, joking about the Oxford. His biggest medical concern? Not malaria, surprisingly, but how eight different stomachs will take to different cuisines. The other two Land Rovers in the expedition are newer Defender models with modern amenities such as air conditioning and radio. Silverius Purba. Bescoby, a Yangon-based filmmaker originally from Manchester, is filming a TV series about the journey set to be released in 2020. The other two filmmakers in the team are french Leopold Belanger and New Yorker David Israeli. Managing the expedition’s route is Marcus Allender, founder of the Go Myanmar tourism website. Therese-Marie Becker. The only woman on the team is Therese-Marie Becker, the digital strategist whose responsibilities include social media management, brand building, and so on. Singaporean Larry Leong is the team’s IT and communications officer. He’s already driven from London to Singapore twice, once with his five-year-old daughter. Such trips can prove to be addictive so he decided to join the current expedition, he said. “There’s something really wonderful about getting in a car with your friends, with the food that you need, with camping year, with some music, and just driving,” Bescoby said. “And the whole point of the journey is to make the journey itself.” Follow The Last Overland on their journey via their Facebook and Twitter. Additional reporting Pravit Rojanaphruk Therese-Marie Becker with the Oxford. The Oxford and the two other Defender Land Rovers in the expedition. The interior of the Oxford. Alex Bescoby. Alex Bescoby with Kevin Horsfield. The three Land Rovers in the Last Overland expedition.
  12. Cool music for a hot island. Fabulous Phuket 102.75 FM arrives. Phuket’s airwaves get a much-need make-over on Monday when a new radio station launches. The new station, Fabulous Phuket 102.75 FM takes over the old frequency from The Thaiger that operated on 102.75 FM for nearly three years before it started focussing all their attention on thethaiger.com instead. We met with the new owner/operator of Fabulous Phuket, Tommy Dee, to find out what listeners can look forward to the Fabulous Phuket hits the airwaves from next Monday, September 2. Tommy’s other station, Fabulous 103 FM in Pattaya is acknowledged as one of the best ‘farang’ stations in the country, all due to Tommy’s persistence and professionalism. How will Fabulous Phuket be different from the current stations available? “When ‘Fab’ first launched we had a goal to have quality shows day and night, not just the easy ‘music…jingle’ approach run by a computer, but a fun station with experienced on-air presenters. Our daytime squad will be on duty from 6am with the BBC news content until 8am when our live shows kick off with ‘Brooksy’ on the morning show. “The Mighty” Peter Quinn is on from noon to 3pm, then “Drive Time Dave” until 6pm. After that we share shows with our sister Pattaya station through to Midnight. “So you have someone in the studio keeping you company most of the day. We’re in your car and travelling around Phuket with you.” “These three guys are pros, theres no pre recorded generic voice recordings like “that was a great song and this is another one”. These guys are truly “on it and in it” throughout their shows, choosing their own music and style. To me, anything else is just a Juke Box and we aren’t one of those. “We will also have local Phuket news and hourly updates from the BBC.” Tell us a quick history of Fabulous Pattaya 103 FM. “Fabulous 103 in Pattaya is about 10 yrs old now, and started as a hobby. I had been involved with another station but moved on to pursue our own station. Eventually Fabulous 103 started as a one man band in what we called ‘the tin shack’. When it rained we put cups on the mixers to catch the rain from the leaky roof. “We struggled a bit in the early days and I even sold a house to keep the business afloat. Wise or unwise, I invested a lot in state of the art radio radio equipment to build the best radio station facility in Thailand. We were also lucky to recruit excellent radio presenters to support Fabulous. “Most are still with us after all these years. We became Pattaya’s Number One radio station after starting with our leaky shack just five years before, and now we’re bring our expertise and team to Phuket. What is the ’sound’ of Fabulous Phuket “Fabulous Phuket is a station designed and scheduled to keep listeners in touch with new music while enjoying the classics too. It’s lots of things, it’s fresh, it’s Fabulous and always genuinely FUN. We built the Fabulous brand to share the fun you can have with radio.” Would you be interested to have other local presenters contact you? “Without doubt, yes. That’s how we hooked up with the likes of Brooksy, Megan and Denny. They contacted me, we met and it was obvious they would be amazing. We get emails weekly now from people “wanting to be on the radio”. But whoever is on ‘Fab’ has to be good enough for listeners to enjoy. Send us a file and we’ll get back to you.” Fabulous Phuket 102.75 FM kicks off on Monday, September 2. The news resources of The Thaiger. CLICK HERE
  13. Isaan girl hates life in ‘Farangland’ as she is not treated like a princess An Isaan country girl has gone on Facebook to moan about life with a foreign man abroad. It is just not the bed of roses that she imagined. Everything is not laid on for her all day so she can sleep and eat. She explains in North-Eastern dialect as a warning to others: She has to take responsibility for herself. She has to look after her own child. Things are not done for her – there appear to be no maids in Meuang farang (“Farangland”) There are no regular handouts of cash and gifts. “What’s more – things are expensive – and I mean expensive,” she says. “What you can Tnd in the markets of Isaan to eat for Tve or ten baht costs 100 baht. “There are none of the things that we can Tnd for free growing in the wild. “A dinner at a restaurant that might cost 100 or 200 in Thailand is 1,000 baht ahead. It sets you back 6,000 for the family to eat”, said the unnamed woman who was wearing a T-shirt indicating she might be in Germany. She continued: “It’s not “sabai, sabai” like Thailand. In Thailand, everyone calls each other auntie or uncle, brother and sister – not here”. Pictures of the woman looking pregnant on a beach probably in Thailand went with the Phenkhao article. Phenkhao chipped in that marrying a farang (white Caucasian) was the dream of many Thai women. They thought it meant an easy and comfortable life that would help to raise the standard of living of those left back home in Thailand. But, they added, the fact is many Thai women Tnd out it is just a dream. Reality is different.
  14. HISTORIC SINGAPORE–LONDON OVERLAND TRIP WILL PASS THROUGH THAILAND Tim Slessor with “Oxford,” the Land Rover Series I he drove from London to Singapore in 1955 to 1956. He will be driving it again from Singapore to London on 25 August 2019. Photo: Klareco Communications / Courtesy BANGKOK — At the beginning of September, a historic car expedition roving its way from Singapore to London will make a pitstop in the Thai capital. In 1955, Land Rover sponsored the Oxford and Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition, where six young men from the Oxbridge universities drove almost 29,000 kilometers from London to Singapore. On Sunday in Singapore, one of those men – now 87 – will begin the reverse journey, called “The Last Overland,” in one of the vehicles used in the original caravan. “As I get older, I have been bothered by a recurring and nagging whisper: ‘Go for it – before it’s too late,’” Tim Slessor said in a press release about the trip. “Which is why I am here today – I am 87, and if I don’t do it now, I may never get another chance.” The “Last Overland” expedition is scheduled to make a brief stop in Bangkok from Sept. 1 to 3, organizers said Tuesday. The team will drive north from Malaysia, passing through Hat Yai in Songkhla province, Surat Thani, and Hua Hin in Prachuap Khiri Khan. The eight-strong team is expected to arrive in London about 100 days after it sets out. It will drive eight to 10 hours a day through Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, the Himalayas, Nepal, China, Central Asia and the Middle East, before crossing into Europe via Turkey. Unlike the 1955 expedition, the team will avoid driving through Iraq, Syria, and parts of Pakistan. It will also drive through China, which was not possible back then. “There’s no question of driving through Syria. As for driving through Afghanistan, no thank you,” Slessor said. Besides Slessor, the expedition is comprised by Alex Bescoby, Marcus Allender, Larry Leong, Nat George (Tim Slessor’s grandson), Silverius Purba, Therese-Marie Becker, and Leopold Belanger, spread across three Land Rovers. “If someone comes up to you asking if you want to drive most of the way round the world in one go, you’d be an absolute idiot to say no,” Bescoby, a filmmaker based in Yangon, said. “I think in 2019, the world seems like a very dangerous place. One of my big motivations is to prove that the world is not as dangerous as people think it is. But this big challenge is going to put that assumption to the test.” Allender is a travel business owner based in Myanmar and is responsible for planning the team’s route. Leong, who has expertise in IT security and is a former combat medic, will be in charge of the team’s security. Purba is the team’s doctor while Becker will manage their social media. Belanger is a filmmaker. The original expedition took place from Sept. 1, 1955 to March 6, 1956, and consisted of Antony Barrington Brown, Adrian Cowell, Patrick Murphy, Nigel Newbery, Henry Nott, and Slessor. Only Slessor, Murphy, and Newbury are still alive today. Of the three Land Rovers in this year’s expedition, only one is from the original 1955 expedition: the “Oxford,” a Land Rover I 1955 series that ended up spending decades in disrepair on Ascension Island. It was even used as a chicken coop before being restored in 2017 by a Yorkshireman named Adam Bennet. “This is bloody motoring as it used to!” Slessor says in a promotional video for the expedition. “None of your heated seats and all that crap!” The Last Overland is organized by UK-based Grammar Productions, which is planning to make a documentary series on the journey. It is sponsored by the Singapore Tourism Board, AKE Group, Klareco Communications, and of course Jaguar Land Rover. Some of the Last Overland team members (Larry Leong, Marcus Allender, Dr Silverius Purba, Tim Slessor, Thérèse-Marie Becker and Alex Bescoby) at a press conference May 30, 2019 in Singapore. Photo: Klareco Communications / Courtesy FULL SIZE MAP www.khaosodenglish.com
  15. Police state squeeze for Thailand’s expatriates New regulations require foreigners report to police each time they leave town, a security measure that could send investors for the exits Even as Thailand confronts stiff global economic headwinds and declining international tourist arrivals, immigration police have ignited a widening furor by enforcing a tough new monitoring regime on the kingdom’s large foreign business and expatriate community. Besieged by long queues, software glitches and rising ire, the controversial reporting rules appear sharply at odds with the government’s ambitious promotion of “Thailand 4.0” as a burgeoning, foreign investment-friendly hub for high-tech and new generation industries at its flagship Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) initiative. Justified on grounds of shadowy threats to national security, the new monitoring system revives a decades-old law requiring long-stay foreigners or their Thai landlords to report to the Immigration Bureau within 24 hours of returning to their place of residence from a trip of one night or longer elsewhere. The reporting law, centered on a now-notorious form known as ‘TM30’ (or Immigration 30), was first passed in 1979 but until early this year it only involved hotels automatically forwarding foreign guests’ passport details to immigration authorities. ts extension to all residences now means that Thai landlords or property-owners accommodating several hundred thousand foreigners, ranging from businesspeople, technical experts, teachers, expatriates married to Thais and retirees, are now required to report their return both after travel abroad and after week-end visits to the beach or business trips to another city within the kingdom. Long-stay foreigners in Thailand are typically granted a one-year visa, and in many cases an annual work permit, both of which require submitting full details of their residence and place of work. Within the year for which the visa is valid, foreigners are also required to report to immigration authorities every 90 days to reconfirm their domicile. Widespread and apparently ongoing confusion in the months since the new enforcement of the law in March this year has morphed into frustration and ire in business circles and approaches to immigration authorities by several international chambers of commerce anxious for at least clarity and possibly a revision of the restrictive new regulations. One Asian diplomat who spoke to Asia Times following a meeting between his country’s Thailand-based business leaders and senior immigration officials noted: “I gather there were a lot of murmurs and the audience raised a lot of objections.” A mid-August circular to international clients from a Hong Kong-based political and economic risk consultancy reported a more forceful response: “Some foreign staff of local businesses are considering relocating, as the existing requirements for reporting after traveling abroad are already overbearing, time-consuming and expensive. Piling on requirements for reporting domestic movements appears to be a bridge too far. “ An irate Canadian businessman with a Thai wife, two Thai children and 15 years of residence behind him reflected the anger of many unable to pack their bags and leave: “It would actually be simpler if they issued all of us with ankle bracelets to enable 24 hour tracking.” He added: “If I wasn’t married here with kids I would have already moved to Cambodia or Myanmar.” In attempts to mitigate the angst, Thai Immigration officials have pointed out that reporting can be done on-line or using a mobile-phone application. In the words of the bureau’s Police Colonel Thatchapong Sarawanangkul, who recently addressed a crowded forum of concerned foreigners organized by the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT), “It’s easier than telling your wife you’re (back) home.” But a daily stream of letters to Thailand’s main English language daily Bangkok Post and a torrent of far less civil social media postings suggest that in practice accessing and then using the online reporting system is less “Honey, I’m home!” and more “What about divorce?” The online system involves the issuing of user-names and passwords for Thai property owners to report the movements of what in Thai immigration-speak are termed “aliens” living under their roofs. Advertised as taking between one and three weeks, the process appears from the outset to have been swamped by the sheer number of people applying. Indeed, in many cases applications simply disappear into cyberspace without any indication if or why forms and document scans submitted have failed to pass muster. Anecdotal evidence suggests that once the system has been set up, software glitches are common and phone-in helplines respond erratically, if at all. Further complications arise when Thai landlords, many of whom rent out multiple units, prove reluctant to check on the daily comings and goings of all of their foreign tenants, and in some cases are themselves not even resident in Thailand. Further anger has been stoked by a lack of consistency in how the new rules are enforced. Some branches of the Immigration Bureau impose fines — ranging from 800 – 2,000 baht (US$25 – US$65) – on both errant Thai property owners and foreign residents who fail to report a return from a short trip away. Others require reporting only after international trips, while quietly conceding that reporting “back in” after an overnight or weekend trip within Thailand is not strictly necessary. Few, if any, dispassionate observers question the fact Thailand faces daunting challenges posed by a mass influx of foreigners, not least a tsunami of foreign tourists now numbering over 30 million annually. That, officials say, has included a significant contingent of undesirables involved in an array of organized and freelance criminality, including people smuggling, narcotics trafficking, online financial scamming and credit card fraud, passport forgery and child sex abuse. In memorable cases in 2012 and 2015 rented houses and condos were used as launch-pads for bomb attacks in Bangkok by foreign terrorists who entered the country on tourist visas. A law enforcement campaign which has scrambled to respond over the past three years has turned on a pithy slogan coined by a former high-profile Immigration Bureau Chief Police Lieutenant General Surachet Hakpal: “Good guys in, bad guys out!” Well-publicized police dragnets in “nightlife zones” and beyond have scooped up hundreds of visa over-stayers and petty crooks. “Thailand is caught between a convenient visa regime designed to support an ailing tourist industry on the one hand and, on the other, an overriding need to scan, find and extradite a growing number of foreign criminals who find Thailand an attractive sanctuary or base of operations,” noted one former Western intelligence official with years of experience in the kingdom. At the nub of the current uproar, however, is the effectiveness of the latest reporting requirements – or whether the daily monitoring of hundreds of thousands of entirely innocent business or pleasure trips by law-abiding foreigners whose addresses and phone numbers are already known to the authorities can usefully contribute to “keeping the bad guys out.” There is compelling evidence that most foreign criminals enter the kingdom on short-stay tourist visas and then in many cases overstay. Long-stay foreigners who use Thailand as a base for criminal activity, many of whom are married to Thais, make up a smaller proportion. However, this category of expatriates must go through an already rigorous annual visa renewal process built into which is a one-month screening period between the receipt of an application and the final granting of another year’s stay. In the case of suspect individuals, that period should – at least in theory — permit liaison with Interpol or police in the applicants’ countries of origin. Lack of planning and preparation, and inadequate technical and human infrastructure, have also dogged the launch of the new monitoring regime and its online system. “My opinion is that they should have sorted it out first before enforcing the law,“ one panelist at the crowded FCCT forum noted to loud applause. Failing online reporting, Thai property owners now need to visit immigration branches in person to join day-long queues to present the TM30 form and supporting documentation, including copies of house registration booklets, ID cards and foreigners’ passports. Even before the new rules were imposed, visits to the kingdom’s immigration headquarters at Chaeng Wattana on the northern edge of Bangkok revealed a system already under siege with queues forming before opening hours and long-suffering officials struggling to process a sea of applicants. “The system they have introduced appears to rely on massive quantities of paperwork and box-checking but to little obvious effect,” noted the former intelligence official. “Frankly, it’s not real-world law enforcement.” At the root of the current problem is arguably a reluctance to envisage forward-thinking reform in a national bureaucracy that is both well-entrenched and averse to change. As one foreign security analyst noted: “It is not a coincidence that in order to deal with real and urgent 21st century problems the Immigration Bureau has resorted to dusting off a law passed four decades ago before the word ‘globalization’ was even thought of. It’s attempting to impose 1979 on 2019.” Senior Immigration officials who have met with foreign chambers of commerce are so far not inclined to blink. They have stoically repeated the mantra that “the law is the law” and that it will be dutifully enforced. Teething problems, they insist, will be sorted out, though presumably not before millions of baht in fines have been levied on Thai property owners and foreigners who are slow to adapt to the new restrictive order. Less than six months into the new regime, it is too early to gauge how much damage will be done to the government’s vision of “Thailand 4.0” and the kingdom’s reputation as a business-friendly destination. What is clear is that the impact will not be positive and that among regional competitors Vietnam, Singapore and even Cambodia, schadenfreude is likely to be the mood of the day. www.asiatimes.com/
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