By Barry Kenyon

Anything and everything about Thailand
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Re: By Barry Kenyon

Post by Gaybutton »

Add to Barry's explanation the fact that the online 90-day address reporting system has been down for weeks - and still is. I still strongly urge those of you who need to renew (extend) your retirement visa do so as far in advance as possible. Unless something has changed, you can still do the renewal up to a month in advance of the visa expiration date.
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Lengthy queues are returning at Jomtien Immigration

By Barry Kenyon

March 1, 2021

Customers at the Chonburi Immigration headquarters are getting more numerous, even as the pandemic persists and a 15-days quarantine remains in force for all arrivals into Thailand. Some estimates say numbers at the Jomtien bureau have increased by 50 percent over the past three months.

It is true that the queues are longest before or after a public holiday, but numbers mid-week are reported to be higher too. One explanation is that richer tourists, though disliking the quarantine regulation, are paying for de luxe accommodation in specialist venues such as five-star luxury hotels, golf courses and even off-shore facilities. Also, the reintroduction of the 60-days tourist visa and the visa exempt 45-days permission has been popular in Europe, according to reports from the Thai embassies in London and several EU countries responsible for issuing the mandatory certificate of entry.

Frank Chesterton, a new Pattaya tourist from Manchester, said, “Actually Brits are not supposed to be travelling abroad for a vacation at the moment. But I had no trouble booking a ticket and obtaining clearance from the Thai embassy. At Heathrow airport, I was merely asked if my journey was really necessary. There was little sign of the inquisitorial interview which the government had threatened. Some large groups with tickets to India were not even approached by security staff or questioned by airline personnel.”

A Singaporean tourist, Joseph Tan, said he had just completed quarantine in Bangkok with his wife and son in a luxury hotel where they had access to sports facilities, a sauna and a la carte dining according to hotel rules. The total cost had been around 300,000 baht (US$10,000) but he felt it was worth the extra expense. “We have good friends in Pattaya and did not want to wait indefinitely, especially now that Thailand has such a good record in combatting the coronavirus.”

However, a Jomtien-based immigration officer cautioned that not all those arriving at the local bureau were new arrivals. He pointed out that all those who had already a one-year retirement renewal on the basis of having 800,000 baht in a Thai bank must now make an additional visit to prove they have not spent the money. Also, some short-term visa extensions – for example Covid discretionary permissions – now require two visits to immigration to obtain the full time period as some temporary applications have to be approved by head office.

Another feature, according to lawyer and immigration consultant Jessataporn Sriboo who is based in offices adjoining the Jomtien bureau, is that more visitors and expats are asking about changes in the regulations. “Long term expats are realizing that a re-entry permit alone is not enough to return to Thailand as they need various documentation and approval from a Thai embassy overseas,” he said. There are also people requesting more information about the Elite visa, the overlap between different visa options and the new avenues for working without a work permit, notably the 4-years Smart visa aimed at new technology experts and nomads.

Meanwhile the Foreign Worker Employment Agency, also adjoining the immigration bureau, is busy registering local guest workers from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. There are believed to be at least 60,000 in Chonburi province alone working in the construction, retail, factory, fishing and hospitality industries. Thai land borders are closed to tourist traffic but are partially open for the transportation of goods and limited entry of guest workers who are subject, like all entrants, to the familiar quarantine regulations.

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Withdrawal of entertainment licences the final nail in Walking Street’s coffin

By Barry Kenyon

March 9, 2021

In its 50 years of history, Pattaya’s most famous street has seen off all its enemies, including international oil panics, farmyard flu epidemics long before the bat variety, the AIDS crisis and marketplace shifts as Chinese souvenir hunters have persistently replaced western sex tourists.

Meanwhile, the strip’s club owners have fought off – sometimes literally – several attempts by civic authorities to close them down on the grounds that some buildings were illegally encroaching onto and over the beach. Nothing of consequence ever happened over the years as Captain Cash remained in control.

It’s different this time. City Hall for several months now has been proclaiming the resort’s future as neo-Pattaya, a somewhat obscure term which seems to mean getting rid of chrome dancing polls and exhibitionists wearing only knickers.

There is much talk of Pattaya becoming akin to Miami or Singapore, both of which combine high international tourism, of the respectable kind of course, with successful business sectors. Views differ on the feasibility of these lofty aspirations as the city still has obvious environmental problems, especially relating to waste disposal, sewage and flooding.

But several owners and leasers of entertainment zones on Walking Street, the beach side, have been informed that 2021 will be their last year of operation. In all probability that is. The civic authorities will refuse to renew their annual entertainment licences when they fall due next January.

Of all the pieces of stamped documents required to open fun palaces in Pattaya, the entertainment licence is key. You will also need liquor and cigarette licences, a proper lease and, if a foreigner, a company registration and a work permit issued by the Department of Labour. Not to mention knowing the importance of industrial relations legislation and, most importantly, tea money. Various reasons have been given for the projected termination: the buildings on the beach side sit on land owned by the Royal Thai Navy or the whole area is to be designated a “residential zone” which precludes making loud noises at night.

The details governing the entertainment licence are very broad and vague. Discoteques are lumped together with country dancing and other places which don’t have a dance floor but allow customers to jive away in any case. Restaurants need such a licence if they provide entertainment, not defined, whilst any place with “lights and sound facilities” are caught in the net. That covers most places where you enjoy yourself.

Any venue which allows staff to socialize with customers must be licensed for entertainment, but is prohibited for consideration if near a school or religious institution. The licence holder must not be “deficient in morals or a crazy” which makes one wonder how anybody ever passed the test in the first place. If the bulldozers finally do erase at least the dozens of venues on the sea side of Walking Street, it will bring neo-Pattaya that bit closer. Whatever that turns out to be.

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Pattaya’s freedom from serious Covid infection attracts many theories

By Barry Kenyon

March 16, 2021

The first recorded coronavirus infection outside of China was in Thailand where a Chinese tourist was identified with the disease as early as January 2020. In spite of many scares about superspreader events in boxing stadiums seafood markets and illegal casinos in Pattaya and elsewhere, the country has retained an impressive record of controlling the pesky virus. So far, the country has recorded only about 27,000 cases with a remarkably low death rate of about one third of one percent.

Pattaya itself in most months has been totally free of recorded cases, even though the overall population has been substantially reduced by the absence of foreign tourists and the evacuation of thousands of unemployed workers back to their home provinces. An official at the Thai Tourist Authority actually conjectured that the lack of overcrowding in most buildings and on Pattaya and Jomtien beaches could well be one reason why the city has escaped the virus.

A popular belief amongst the expat crowd in Pattaya is that many of them had a really bad cold and cough last winter which, unknown to them, was Covid-19. So, the argument goes, they have developed immunity and need not worry again. This point was put to Dr Supaporn Wacharapluesadee, of the Thai Red Cross, who dismissed the idea of an early outbreak of coronavirus prior to public recognition. He said that any initial ambiguity was caused by a lack of laboratories in Thailand to test for the virus: only two in January 2020 compared with 250 now.

Another myth is that Thailand is a hot country much hated by the virus. If that was an important factor, it is difficult to see why there have been mass outbreaks in other sweltering countries such as India. Conspiracy theorists have also joined the bandwagon. A Facebook blogger claims to know a pathologist at Banglamung mortuary, near Pattaya, who says nobody has died from the virus there and that the whole pandemic panic is nonsensical. “It’s the flu under another name,” the keyboard warrior suggests.

Epidemiologist Dr Wiput Phooscharoen has done detailed research in southern Thailand and found that 90 percent of coronavirus cases in his sample were asymptiomatic. He conjectured that Thais might have an immune system better equipped to deal with Covid-19, just as they are notoriously prone to falling seriously sick with dengue fever. The possible links between coronavirus infection and racial characteristics is likely to a popular research topic for years to come.

Thammasat University’s infectious diseases expert Prof Anucha Apisarnthanarak says there are actually three main reasons why Thailand’s infection rate has been low. Firstly, the government lockdowns have been nationwide, even if small variations have been allowed province by province, whilst the air travel restrictions with compulsory quarantining have been effective. Secondly, the Thai government has allowed scientists to take the lead in combatting the virus. Lastly, the public education campaign has been clear and coordinated by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration.

The CCSA has sent a consistent message about the need for mask wearing, frequent washing of hands and social distancing. Whilst these precautions are by no means universally observed, they are perhaps better realized than in many other countries. Some initiatives have certainly flopped. The contact tracing app Thai Chana has been a failure and reportedly has created volumes of spam, but the manual signing-in at major superstores has been more successful.

Thailand’s battles are by no means over. Gigantic questions remain about the vaccination rollout program and the knock-on effects of the potential reduction, or even abolition. of quarantine travel restrictions. The political crisis in Myanmar is likely to lead to further illegal immigration through Thailand’s notoriously leaky land borders. There have already been virus outbreaks at the border brothel town of Tachileik and the casino resort at Myawaddy. This is certainly no time to take your eye off the ball.

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

Post by gera »

What is in common between Australia , New Zealand and China? These three countries are among the most successful in dealing with covid. And their approach to the problem was to close the borders and introduce strict lock downs within the countries. The same was true in Thailand with the exception of treating migrant workers. Their quarantine was outsourced to companies inviting them to the country. It proved to be a weak link and led to the recent outbreak. As some of you know, today Thai cabinet considers the reduction of mandatory quarantine for new arrivals. IMHO it is a very bad idea at the moment. it could make sense later if vaccines really work (and there are already indications that at least some of them protect against asymptomatic infections).

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gera wrote:
Tue Mar 16, 2021 8:33 am
IMHO it is a very bad idea at the moment.
I agree. In my opinion, the safest thing for Thailand to do is nobody gets in without both vaccine and quarantine.

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Gaybutton wrote:
Tue Mar 16, 2021 8:45 am
gera wrote:
Tue Mar 16, 2021 8:33 am
IMHO it is a very bad idea at the moment.
I agree. In my opinion, the safest thing for Thailand to do is nobody gets in without both vaccine and quarantine.
Two weeks quarantine is sufficient. It proved to be the case in all countries mentioned above and Thailand too. As for vaccines , if they prove to be protecting against infection , then where the quarantine may be relaxed.

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The existing "14 day" quarantine (actually 15 nights) seems to have prevented tourists introducing Covid.
In addition to quarantine, covid test result is required <72 hours before departure, followed by tests on day 5 and 12 if I recall correctly.

They then introduced 3 tests during quarantine. I forget the exact days of the revised schedule, but the middle test was on day 9. I believe that was to check the feasibility of reducing quarantine to 10 days, but that seemed to be put on the backburner following the December outbreak. Even though that outbreak was nothing to do with tourists, but rather greedy employers employing migrant workers.

The first thing to do would be to look at the data from their existing tests and see if quarantine could be reduced to 10 days.

As for the idea of reducing quarantine to 7 days for people with vaccines, presumably this only makes sense if vaccinated people clear virus infections more quickly and within 7 days. I'd have thought that having antibodies ready would reduce the time required to clear the infection, but have no idea if this would clear it in 7 days. Perhaps someone making decisions has seen data.

I would have thought the more significant easing of restrictions will come when Thailand rolls out vaccines. Presumably in the second half of 2021.

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Thai immigration questions and answers – March 2021

By Barry Kenyon

March 19, 2021

Here’s a summary of some of the most frequent topics currently being raised with Thai immigration authorities and Thai embassies overseas. For more detailed responses and any policy changes, you should visit an immigration office in Thailand or refer to the Thai embassy website in your country.


Can I leave Thailand and return using my re-entry permit?

The only way you can return to Thailand is by obtaining from the Thai embassy in your country of intended departure a certificate of entry. While the documentary requirements vary according to the visa in question, they always include Covid insurance worth US$100,000, proof of registration with a quarantine hotel in Thailand, health checks etc. A re-entry permit on its own will not be sufficient and, for many purposes, is not necessary.

Which visas now require general health insurance?

Thai embassies will want to see, in addition to specific Covid cover, general insurance worth at least 400,000 baht outpatient and 40,000 baht inpatient for the Special Tourist Visa (up to 270 days) and for non-immigrant visas based on retirement, whether type “O”, “O/A” or “X”. Whilst abroad, applicants will be able to use foreign insurance companies but later extensions sought in Thailand at immigration offices will likely require registration with a Thai-based company.

Must I have a return airticket to apply for a certificate of entry?

If you are a citizen one of the 54 “exempt” countries able to apply for a maximum 45 day stay in Thailand without a visa, you must be in possession of an airticket both in and out of Thailand within that time scale. Actually the ticket out of Thailand need not to be to your home country but to any destination outside Thailand. Some, but not all embassies, are also asking for an outward-bound airticket when examining the application for a 60 day tourist visa.

What exactly does quarantine involve once you land in Thailand?

Currently, all visitors must undergo isolation in a hotel for a period of two weeks after which they are free to travel domestically as long as they are virus-free. The registration and payment are on-line prior to receiving the certificate of entry and the quality of the experience will depend on what you are prepared to pay. But leaving your room will not be a regular feature. The most expensive quarantine experience is to be found in five star hotels, golf course residences and even off-shore yachts.

Why do only some expats have to provide general medical insurance when applying for an annual retirement extension at a Thai immigration bureau?

It depends on the category of non-immigrant visa on which your extension is based. If “O/A” (annual) or “X” (10 years), you will need a Thailand-based policy worth at least 400,000 baht inpatient and 40,000 outpatient. If your non-immigrant visa was type “O” no insurance is currently required for an annual extension. However, that remains true only if the “O” retirees remain in Thailand and do not venture abroad.

Is it worthwhile obtaining a Thai Elite visa which allows a five year stay for 600,000 baht?

There are, in fact, many Elite variations but that is the most popular option. Against the Elite is that you must pay 600,000 baht up front and must still do the 90 days immigration check-in and refresh the visa on an annual basis. Also you may find the extras, such as fast airport immigration processing and discounts on purchases, somewhat exaggerated. On the plus side, you do not need re-entry permits, nor prove bank balances once you have joined. Some holders of retirement and marriage extensions of stay say the Elite option is much less hassle with minimum contact with ever-changing immigration rules. There is no requirement to have general medical insurance.

Do you need a Covid test, vaccination or specific insurance to renew or extend a visa in Thailand?

Not currently, although some immigration or employment offices do require virus clearance for work permits or for the newish four year Smart visa for new technology experts and investors. Thailand has only just begun its vaccination program – only around 60,000 inoculated so far – so it would not be feasible to require it at this stage for the hundreds of thousands of foreigners still here. It’s likely that Thailand will be guided, in part, by decisions yet to be made by other tourist-orientated countries.

When will travel and in and out of Thailand return to normal?

Impossible to predict. On the positive side, some kind of vaccine passport may be available this or next year whilst the Thai government is very keen to open up the country as soon as possible. It’s also possible that travel insurance, hidden in the cost of the airticket, may simplify the whole insurance debate, but that’s far from certain. On the negative front, Covid has hugely empowered Thai embassies abroad and they may be reluctant to give up that bureaucratic control over entry of foreigners to the kingdom. Many travel experts prefer the term neo-normal as the days of buying an airticket and hopping on a plane with just your passport are not returning any time soon. If ever.

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Thailand’s new quarantine rules not set in concrete]

By Barry Kenyon

March 21, 2021

Hopes that relaxation of the country’s quarantine rules for overseas visitors will boost international arrivals may be premature. According to government spokesman Taweesilp Visanuyothin, the unpopular hotel-based and supervised isolation will be reduced from 14 to 10 days starting April 1. Entrants with a completed vaccination certificate might qualify for 7 days restricted movement, although Thai embassies abroad (which control all applications to visit the country via the mandatory Certificate of Entry) have not yet confirmed that detail.

The beneficial effect in the short term may be minimal. Phumkit Raktaengam, president of the Phuket Tourism Association, said business operators have been discussing the issue with European counterparts and made the unsurprising discovery that the vast majority of tourists will wait until quarantine has completely disappeared from the rule book. A similar remark from a Pattaya Council member warned that international tourism in the city was on its last legs owing to isolation and the publicity surrounding it.

The government’s top health committee, chaired by the prime minister, has also suggested that the country could stop enforcing quarantine altogether for some groups from October 1 with a full revival of open-entry international tourism starting in January 2022. But these are aspirations and not policy decisions with ongoing worries about clusters of infection, new virus variants and the halting international progress towards mass vaccination and herd immunity.

Thailand continues to struggle with trying to balance the needs of the economy with the safety of its citizens. Unsure of the future, the prime minister’s Covid panel has extended the state of emergency for two further months until the end of May. This allows the government to enforce mandatory quarantines and to streamline disease-control without multiple approvals from other national and provincial agencies. Meanwhile, Thailand is in talks with the United States, South Korea and Singapore about limited travel bubbles and future vaccine passport pacts.

Meanwhile, Europe’s third wave threatens to spread to the UK with Prime Minister Boris Johnson warning that the ban on foreign holidays, initially scheduled to end mid-May, may well have to be extended throughout the summer. The Times newspaper quoted a government source, “In May we are still going to have a significant proportion of the population still not vaccinated and, of course, children won’t be vaccinated either.”

UK government advisor Dr Mike Tildesley said there was a danger that new variants could jeopardize the vaccination programme later in the year. He said that it would likely remain illegal for Brits to travel abroad for leisure reasons throughout the summer because of the risk of vacationers bringing back variant bugs on return. The Chinese-based Jing Travel has made a similar point that business travel should have priority over vacations, warning that the Chinese government was not sponsoring group travel outside the country at present. In spite of many predictions, Thailand still does not have a travel bubble or green zone agreement with either China or India, formerly its biggest international tourist markets.

It’s looking increasingly likely that the light at the end of the tunnel won’t be shining any time soon.

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Phuket reopening without quarantine still poses many unanswered questions

By Barry Kenyon

March 27, 2021

The news that Thailand will allow vaccinated foreign tourists to holiday on Phuket Island without undergoing any quarantine has raised spirits across the board. The Centre for Economic Situation Administration (CESA), chaired by the prime minister, approved the business suggestion on March 26. The starting date for the so-called “Phuket Sandbox” is July 1, with a more general aspiration to open up all Thailand on the same basis from October.

However, the devil is in the detail where he always lurks. The program assumes that 70 percent of Phuket residents will themselves have been vaccinated in time for the new arrivals.

That’s about 477,000 Thai citizens. The idea here is to establish herd immunity prior to the tourist avalanche. Almost a million doses have been promised to arrive in Phuket in the near future, with two injections required for each individual. Keep your fingers crossed about the optimistic time-scales here.

The policy isn’t quite through the bureaucracy yet as it has to be endorsed by the whole Thai Cabinet as well as by the CESA. Hopefully, the affirmation will be swift. But Cabinet members might cause a delay by asking if the vaccinated tourists will have a free run of the island or will be “limited on the trail” as recently suggested by the Thai tourist ministry.

Other question marks might be the detail about a Covid test to be taken at the Thai airport, or the reliability of requiring the tourists to activate the Thailand Plus tracing app. The problem with apps is that they can be switched off.

The projected Phuket arrivals will need to show a vaccination certificate, a vaccine passport or an International Air Transport Association (IATA) travel pass. The trouble with hand-carried vaccination certificates is that they are easily faked and available from unscrupulous vendors on the internet, particularly the dark web. Vaccination passports are in their infancy and by no means universally accepted because of concerns about cybersecurity and data privacy.

The IATA travel pass, a new system to validate and authenticate all country requirements about Covid, whilst providing the individual traveller with a digital certificate, is not yet fully operational. The second functionality will be launched in April. The current version can be found on iOS and Play Store. Use of the IATA technology assumes very detailed coordination between governments, airlines and vaccination centres.

A final factor to be considered is the bureaucracy for potential international vacationers to Phuket. Presumably, they will still need to register online (like all other potential visitors) with the local Thai embassy and present the voluminous paperwork for the mandatory certificate of entry.

One assumes too that even vaccinated applicants will need to provide a Covid-free test within 72 hours of anticipated departure. There is also the question of possible health insurance and whether it would be Covid-specific or general health or both or neither. These details will eventually appear on embassy websites, one assumes, but that will take weeks.

Thai government sources are confident that the quarantine-free scheme at Phuket will bring an extra 100,000 visitors and produce 30 billion baht in much-needed revenue. Before that can happen, a great deal of missing detail has to be inked in. And July 1 is only three months away.

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