By Barry Kenyon

Anything and everything about Thailand
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By Barry Kenyon

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Barry Kenyon, former British consul in Pattaya, has written several articles published in the Pattaya Mail. From now on, whenever Barry writes an article, it will be posted on this topic.
______________________________________________________

Pattaya expats settle down for the long haul

By Barry Kenyon

June 10, 2020

Foreign retirees, the bulk of the 4,000 or so expats still left in the greater Pattaya area, have experienced rather a battering in the last couple of years. First off, they were told that they now needed to have comprehensive medical insurance, followed by a correction that only the very few with an O/A visa issued by a Thai consulate would be caught in the medical net. In fact, most retirees have an O visa with annual extensions of stay stamped by the Thai immigration bureau. They are currently safe.

The retirees were then clobbered by several embassies, including the British and the American, which refused to issue a standard letter confirming that the applicant had an annual foreign income. Diplomats argued that their nationals might be telling lies, a terrifying scenario indeed, although others pointed to the general backsliding in the number and quality of embassy services on offer these days.

Next, Thai immigration authorities nationally issued new guidelines for proving your overseas income or retaining cash in a Thai bank with the initial requirement of 800,000 baht or equivalent. But there was a hint of ambiguity here and there in the official translation and local immigration offices began issuing their own detailed procedures. So, in one office, you might need TransferWise paperwork to prove the cash did originate abroad, but a neighboring office might not bother. There is probably a PhD to be written on all the nitty-gritty variations up and down the land which were – and continue to be – faithfully recorded on a daily basis by the irrepressible ThaiVisa.Now there is a new reality.

Those retirees currently remaining in Thailand are essentially prisoners without bars in their own chosen tropical paradise. In other words, if they leave the country for any reason, they cannot return by land, sea or air. All foreigners, no matter what their status, are banned from entry until June 30 at the earliest.

Earlier this month, government spokespersons began speculating about which groups of foreigners might be allowed in first. Perhaps there will be a trial run of Vietnamese or Chinese or even New Zealand tourists as they represent countries with a good track record of combating the pesky virus. Maybe, other groups such as work permit holders or farang with Thai wives or even business executives might have a chance to catch a plane. No details have yet emerged, but the earlier assumption that Thai airports would see a free-for-all on July 1 is obviously bunkum.

Thus your typical retiree in Pattaya, enjoying the empty deckchairs on the beaches and the panic-driven discounts in the massage shops, is going to be stuck here for much longer than seemed probable just a few weeks ago. That is particularly true if his (or her) passport was issued by a country with a poor coronavirus track record which includes all Europeans, in the EU or out of it, the Americans, the Middle East, etc. Part of the new-normal in travel, about which we are admittedly and heartily sick of hearing, may turn out to be what nationality you are rather than where you have been. Not to mention the documents you might need in addition to your passport and visa.

Trying to guess when the Thai travel gates might swing open wide is a mug’s game rather like attempting to pinpoint the end of world war two just a month or so after it had started. All will depend on the trial runs of specified groups in coming months, the likelihood of an effective vaccine being developed internationally and the degree of risk of imported Covid-19 which the Thai authorities are prepared to take. Give Frank, a 72 year old Brit, the last word, “I don’t have a crystal ball but I know where I’ll be spending Christmas. Here!”

https://www.pattayamail.com/featured/pa ... aul-303409

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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Pattaya should join emergency tourism proposal

By Barry Kenyon

August 18, 2020

There have been several proposals in Thai government circles to allow some foreign tourists back into Thailand in the last three months of 2020. One was to allow really rich travellers in private jets to land at U-Tapao airport, near Rayong, to have the time of their lives on Jomtien’s pristine beaches. But nothing more has been heard of this idea, perhaps because it does rather smack of unashamed elitism. Nor is it obvious that multi-billionaires would be rushing on arrival to the Walking Street for a discounted beer or to an all-you-can-eat buffet for 299 baht.

Another was the much-vaunted travel bubble which is handicapped by the worry that nobody quite knows what it is. Latvia has one with her Baltic neighbors, but that’s not about tourism. New Zealand talked about one but then got cold feet after a renewed coronavirus outbreak. An opposition spokesperson in Belarus suggested yesterday that the president over there might be requiring a bubble exit soon after the disputed election. Anyway, Thailand hasn’t yet got involved with any countries about travel corridors or green zones, so best to forget about them just now.

And then there’s the Elite long-term visa card which is now on the list of categories to be eligible for an all-important certificate of entry from your local Thai embassy abroad. However, final approval is still pending in several government committees. The point about the Elite card is that it is a 5-20 year multiple-entry visa which, according to recent advertisements, can be used for retiree expats as well as business people. It is likely to prove to be a priority loophole for wannabe entrants to Thailand in a hurry. But not yet.

That leaves us with Safe and Sealed, a proposal by the tourism ministry to open parts of the country to tourists from low-risk cities or districts abroad which have been coronavirus-free for the past 30 days. The details are still hazy – some reports say the tourists must strictly quarantine here while others suggest swabs galore and a tracking wrist band might be sufficient – but the minister has already mooted 1-2 kilometers of specially reserved beach in chosen resorts. The final say will rest with the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) which has already made a preliminary visit to Phuket to assess readiness.

To date, we have heard next to nothing about Pattaya being allowed to participate in the provisionally-estimated 500,000 tourists to arrive in Thailand during the last quarter of the year. It is usually supposed that Thai islands (Phuket or Phi Phi or Kho Samui) will be chosen for participation for ease of monitoring strangers, whilst Pattaya’s many entrances and exits make the wandering lust by tourists impossible to control. But it’s not easy to sustain that argument as Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai, which are not islands under any definition, are teaming up as a northern hub under Safe and Sealed.

There is no city in Thailand with as much experience of handling mass tourism than Pattaya. The authorities know all about package tourists staying in nominated hotels, boarding their bus on time and keeping together as a group. If Safe and Sealed does get off the ground this year, Pattaya needs to participate to save something from the current train-wreck of international tourism. Waiting for a vaccine is not the answer here.

https://www.pattayamail.com/featured/pa ... sal-311527

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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Barry Kenyon wrote:
Tue Aug 18, 2020 3:22 pm
That leaves us with Safe and Sealed, a proposal by the tourism ministry to open parts of the country to tourists from low-risk cities or districts abroad which have been coronavirus-free for the past 30 days. The details are still hazy – some reports say the tourists must strictly quarantine here while others suggest swabs galore and a tracking wrist band might be sufficient – but the minister has already mooted 1-2 kilometers of specially reserved beach in chosen resorts. The final say will rest with the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) which has already made a preliminary visit to Phuket to assess readiness.
Would you want to travel to Thailand under those or similar circumstances and restrictions? If I was not in Thailand, but that was the offer for going to Thailand, I think my response would be "include me out".


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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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Gaybutton wrote:
Tue Aug 18, 2020 3:29 pm
Would you want to travel to Thailand under those or similar circumstances and restrictions? If I was not in Thailand, but that was the offer for going to Thailand, I think my response would be "include me out".
From a gay travellers point of view you are probably correct.

However, there are many “all in“ beach resorts, all over the world, which families visit and rarely, if ever, leave during their stay.

So I can see some mileage in the suggestion.

Not for the boy hunting types though!

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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gerefan wrote:
Thu Aug 20, 2020 7:35 am
I can see some mileage in the suggestion.
Perhaps some, but suppose Thailand opens the doors to completely unimpeded travel tomorrow. How many people throughout the world are champing at the bit for an opportunity to make an as-soon-as-possible trip to Thailand?

I just don't see hordes of travelers wanting to make a holiday in Thailand any time soon - or all that many airlines even wanting to fly their planes to Thailand.

If and when Thailand does open the borders, I hope to see hordes of what in my opinion constitutes the right set of travelers, not hordes of Chinese tourists on tour buses creating traffic problems while taking these people to places I never would want to go in the first place, and I can do without a return of the Middle Eastern motorbike maniacs too.

I'd love to see everyone reading this board all returning to Pattaya on the very same day - and then we can have a BIG party while reopening all the Sunee Plaza and Boyztown go-go bars - and the party doesn't break up until midnight when the police arrive to tell us sorry, but now it's beddy-bye time . . .

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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Government clears Elite visa for final takeoff

By Barry Kenyon

August 20, 2020

Thailand Privilege Company Ltd (TPC) has now announced that any foreigner holding the Thai elite visa is eligible for a priority return to Thailand. The Elite program allows anyone, including long-term tourists and retirees, to stay in the country for up to 20 years with a multiple entry visa on payment of an initial cash fee between 500,000 and 2,000,000 baht.

The move by the top government committee, the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) is seen as important because Elite visa holders are the first group allowed back to Thailand who are not necessarily in work-related categories, nor foreigners with Thai families nor well-heeled medical tourists.

TPC says in its announcement that both members and new joiners will be contacted by email and told to prepare their documentation for submission to the Thai embassy in their home country. As for all approved categories, the requirements for a certificate of entry are medical insurance worth at least US$100,000, a fit-to-fly certificate, coronavirus tests pre-flight and registration with a hotel in Thailand under the Alternative State Quarantine (ASQ) arrangements.

In recent weeks, there has been a surge in applications for the Elite visa which can be sought online from anywhere in the world. Current numbers are around 10,000 in total and are expected to rise significantly as the Elite offers a way around the general ban on general tourists and retirees. The scheme also offers a number of perks such as fast-track immigration and discounts across the retail sector.

The exact timescale for the return of all Elite members – or those who wish to travel at the present time – is unclear as there is a quota system in operation and there are only repatriation flights to Bangkok with a minority of expensive seats reserved for non-Thai nationals. The total waiting time is currently about a month for returning foreigners who obtain the all-important certificate of entry from their local Thai embassy.

In the meantime, there is no sign that the government is leaning to resuming normal airline scheduling nor opening up the country to short-term vacationers. The CCSA is known to have several doctors who remain concerned about a second wave of coronavirus hitting Thailand. Travel bubbles with other countries have been rejected for the time being, although variations on the proposal are still being debated in government circles.

https://www.pattayamail.com/featured/go ... off-311679

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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We can all make our predictions about Pattaya's future, but now it certainly appears to be focused much more on domestic, rather than international, tourism. However it goes, I see no reason to think Boyztown, Sunee Plaza, and Jomtien Complex will cease to exist. I believe any transformation of Pattaya will have little or no effect on the gay venues. I believe the only thing that would cause an end to Pattaya's gay scene would be customer numbers. While Jomtien Complex seems to be doing comparatively well, Sunee Plaza is still hanging on by a thread. If, and when, Thailand reopens for international tourism, I think the future of the gay scene is going to depend on how many gay farang return to Thailand and how soon. I see two possibilities - either the gay scene will thrive once again or we're going to end up continuing to see it declining until it is nothing more than a memory.

That's the way I see it. My crystal ball goes no further than that . . .
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Pattaya’s history is no guide to its future

By Barry Kenyon

August 26, 2020

Whilst most of us are debating whether travel bubbles are worth the effort and how many bars and massage parlours might be forced to close soon, fantastic sums of money are being spent on a very different futuristic Pattaya. Hold on to your hats.

Admittedly, some of the cash is about beaches. A four kilometer stretch of Pattaya beach is being landscaped with bonuses such as underground toilets for 160 million baht, whilst a Jomtien beach project to reverse coastal erosion is at planning stage. Meanwhile, City Hall is taking advantage of the lack of tour buses on the roads to advance its plans to put cables underground and to improve drainage. Wait and see on that one.

But the real cash is being spent elsewhere. In the last four years, the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), based in Chonburi and two other provinces in eastern Thailand, has attracted investment applications totaling US$40 billion from public funds in partnership with Thai and foreign investors. The upgrade of U-Tapao international airport, the high-speed rail ribbon sprawl linking three main airports and the expansion of Map Ta Phut and Laem Chabang seaports are all going ahead.

There is also a medical hub located at the Thammasat university campus in Pattaya which has launched its Lakeside Premier Complex, to be a full-service nursing home and medical hospital for the elderly. Meanwhile the electrical and electronics industry is a major investor in the EEC along with the automotive and petrochemical industries. The EEC is already home to many multinational corporations including Emerson, Samsung, Sharp, Sony and Sumitomo. In 2018 Hitachi opened the Lumada Center Southeast Asia in Chonburi.

The EEC promotional zones qualify for tax and non-tax investment incentives for specific industries, including exemption from corporate income tax for up to 13 years. And that’s the attraction for investors seeking long-term yields. Companies wishing to reach the regional ASEAN marketplace with a population of more than 650 million people are investing in Thailand because of its strong connectivity to regional and global markets. It’s all about buying and selling.

This is not to deny that Pattaya will have a future as a beach resort and vacation spot but to recognize it lies in the middle of a post-industrial revolution with satellite cities on the horizon and investments worth untold trillions of baht. The proposed monorail system to link Pattaya railway station to downtown at a cost of nine billion baht is a good example of the integration of traditional beach holidays with a starkly different technological future.

A test case is coming up with the future of Pattaya’s Walking Street which is currently undecided. Maybe it will revert to its night-time status once the pandemic is over. Maybe it will transform itself into a Thai (rather than foreigner) recreational area with the bars playing Isaan music and the street stalls selling Thai products and food. Or maybe a huge EEC grant will knock the entire area down to be replaced by a green zone with a mini-zoo and aquarium, a water park, children’s rides and international restaurants galore. You might almost imagine you were at Pier 39 San Francisco.

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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Thailand nominates two more foreign groups eligible for entry

By Barry Kenyon

August 28, 2020

The government’s top disease control committee, Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), has indicated that two more categories will receive priority over general tourists in the gradual re-opening of Thai airports. According to deputy army chief and CCSA panel chairman Natthapon Nakpanich, foreigners with permanent residences in Thailand and long-term foreign residents will be favoured by the CCSA because “they have high purchasing power.” Let’s hope so.

That appears to mean that foreigners who own outright their own condos may now be en route for an early repatriation, as well as holders of a one year extension of stay such as retirees. However, the detail has yet to be filled in. For example, would a foreigner with a long-term lease on a property or with his name included on official registration documentation (the “yellow book”) be included? Or how many years of annual, consecutive extensions of stay would a retiree have to show to qualify? Three or five or seven?

The recent history of the CCSA suggests that an idea for repatriation is initially floated with weeks of earnest follow-up discussion before a final decision is made. At the beginning of August, an official press release indicated that Elite visa holders were now eligible to apply to return to Thailand, but the websites of Thai embassies abroad have not yet updated their information, presumably as they await instructions from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Thai embassy in London currently states that entry is not available for “tourism and retirement” and indicates that Elite visas remain “suspended”. However, Elite is currently being marketed internationally by the Thai Privilege company as a 5-20 years retirement option with fringe benefits galore. A case of different government departments not being in step.

At the moment, all foreigners seeking admission to Thailand need a certificate of entry from their local Thai embassy. They must present a thick wad of documentation including a fit-to-fly certificate, Covid-19 tests, medical insurance worth at least US$100,000 and proof of their eligible status such as a work permit or permanent residency (ownership of red police book). Certain medical tourists and their retinue are also eligible as are foreigners married to Thai citizens, students or those with an invitation from a Thai ministry.

All wannabe returnees must undergo medical checks on arrival and pay in advance for their own 14-days quarantine at an approved hotel upon landing. The total cost of returning to Thailand at present can run into many hundreds of thousands of baht, not to mention the high cost of air tickets which are available only on repatriation flights. Normal air schedules were cancelled many months ago.

Connie Warren, a spokesperson of the Association of British Travel Agents, said, “It’s clear that Thailand is opening her doors only to the well-off at the present time.” She doubted that mass tourism was even on the agenda until a vaccine was ready and distributable, or until the pandemic died out of its own accord. Other spokespersons have indicated that mid-2021 is the earliest date that can be optimistically surmised.

Meanwhile, the Thai government’s Safe and Sealed tourist idea continues to be debated. Some charter flights may begin in November to Phuket from cities worldwide with no community virus infection cases for at least 30 days. However, a 14-days quarantine would still be required at a resort hotel with the proviso that some sunbathing on the beach in a boxed area might be allowed. Compulsory use of the Thai Chana tracing app or even ankle bracelets are also being mooted. The commercial viability of Safe and Sealed has yet to be tested in the international market place. Best not to get too excited.

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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Barry Kenyon wrote:
Fri Aug 28, 2020 3:27 pm
Some charter flights may begin in November to Phuket from cities worldwide with no community virus infection cases for at least 30 days.
Name one city, anywhere in the world which complies with this.

Who dreams up this crap?

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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gerefan wrote:
Fri Aug 28, 2020 6:40 pm
Name one city, anywhere in the world which complies with this.
Ouagadougou . . . ?

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