By Barry Kenyon

Anything and everything about Thailand
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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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Huh? What?!?! The 4am closing time proposal wouldn't apply to all the bars? Whose brilliant idea is that? Somebody would have a very difficult time trying to explain to me that the authorities would have failed to anticipate bitter complaints from bars not within the 4am zones and would still have to close at 2am. Didn't they know that would happen? Do the complaints actually come as a surprise to them? I would think any idiot would easily have foreseen those kinds of complaints.

My opinion: If 4am closing time is permitted, then it should apply to all venues. If not all, then none and let it remain at 2am for all.
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Pattaya opposition builds to 4 a.m. booze extension proposal

By Barry Kenyon

August 20, 2022

Pattaya bar and club owners are increasingly skeptical of the Tourist Authority of Thailand’s recommendation that selected districts in popular cities should be allowed to serve alcohol for two hours longer than the current 2 a.m. closing time. They say that the proposals lack clarity as well as penalizing nighteries not lucky enough to be included in the new liberal zones.

The TAT proposal, which needs approval the Thai Cabinet and a sign-off from the prime minister, eyes longer opening for yet-to-be-named districts such as Khao San Road in Bangkok and Walking Street in Pattaya. Tourism and sports minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn believes that such a move will boost international tourist numbers at the expense of local rivals such as Cambodia and Vietnam. However, he has also suggested that “public hearings” were needed and that the idea might only apply to weekends.

Critics say the idea hardly worth the effort. Khun Tam Saelim, from the Pattaya Entertainment Alliance, said, “A city-wide improvement to 4 a.m. is fine, but to talk of certain streets having different regulations from their neighbors on some nights of the week is not progress as it boosts jealousies and adds to confusion.” He pointed out that Cambodian tourist areas in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap remained open until the last customer left rather than at some pre-determined moment.

Meanwhile, Pattaya’s gay bars bristled at the thought of discrimination. Khun Zac, who runs a popular venue, said, “If the new rules don’t include a gay district, they are going to lead to a lot of bad publicity.” Other critics pointed out that the police did not uniformly enforce the current closing time of 2 a.m. Taxi drivers in the Walking Street district said they were still ferrying customers home as dawn broke.

Opponents of the current proposal also include anti-booze pressure groups such as the Thai Centre of Alcohol Studies which claims to have evidence that extending hours leads to more traffic accidents, tragic hospitalizations and street crimes such as necklace-snatching in the wee hours. But most commentators believe that Thailand’s determination to win back international tourists by virtually decriminalizing marijuana (except smoking in public) and seriously considering the opening of casinos will surely extend to 24-hour drinking. Sooner or later.

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

Post by Undaunted »

2am is fine 4am is only going to cause trouble ie. traffic accidents, fights etc.
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Re: By Barry Kenyon

Post by Jun »

Surely some control is needed ?

You should not have bars playing loud music in residential areas at 4:00 am for example. So either control the hours or the noise levels. However, noise control doesn't seem to exist in Thailand.

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Jun wrote:
Sat Aug 20, 2022 11:27 pm
noise control doesn't seem to exist in Thailand.
It's not that it doesn't exist. It does exist. The problem is that it's another one of those laws that isn't enforced. When the noise level regulations first came out it was enforced for about the usual two weeks and then totally ignored and forgotten. It went the way of the underground toilets promised at Jomtien Beach . . .

2am or 4am - if you want to be able to sleep, then I suggest staying at a hotel nowhere near a bar.

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Thai baht likely to strengthen against British pound

By Barry Kenyon

August 24, 2022

With Bloomberg and principal investment bankers speculating that UK inflation will soar above 15 percent this upcoming winter, there seems to be no chance British holidays to Thailand are going to get cheaper. A year ago, the pound bought 46 Thai baht but the selling rate has now shrunk to little more than 42 at the foreign exchange depots.

Foreign exchange markets hate bad news and there’s currently too much around concerning the UK. Major strike threats to paralyze public transport and major container imports are just the tip of the iceberg alongside slow economic growth and a looming winter gas shortage-crisis. Confusion about the consequences of the political battle to become the latest prime minister haven’t helped. Many pundits say a full-blown recession is likely, or has already started.

Meanwhile, the Thai baht has benefited by some recent developments. The country’s food exports have risen dramatically as a consequence of Mr Putin’s invasion of a neighboring country, according to the Thai Food Processors Association. Supply chain disruptions are less noticeable in Asia than in Europe, whilst the latest banking figures show that Thailand, the region’s second-biggest economy and net oil importer, will grow by 3.3 percent in 2022. That’s double last year’s figure. Growth in international passenger arrivals is another positive feature, although the rise in airfares, shortage of flights and the absence of Chinese group tours are limiting financial factors.

In times of upheaval, investors prefer the safe haven provided by the US dollar. Also, the American economy continues to grow modestly, even as China’s falters, and the Federal Reserve believes it has the tools to tackle domestic inflation which some experts say is now stabilizing. The oil-independent American economy is affected less than many countries by the Russo-Ukraine war. As regards the Thai currency, the baht has fallen around 10 percent in value against the dollar so far in 2022. The British pound has shrunk by a similar amount in relation to the US currency to be now worth around 1.18. For the foreseeable future, the UK currency is stuck in the international mud.

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Thailand’s 10 year visas will be launched September 1

By Barry Kenyon

August 29, 2022

They’re finally off! From Thursday this week, immigration bureaux, Employment Department provincial offices, the Board of Investment and embassies abroad will all be ready to receive applications for the new decade-long visa. It’s the LTR or Long Term Resident variant. But critics say the advantages and perks are somewhat limited, with some of them already embodied in existing visa options.

The income and investment requirements differ according to the application category, but umpteen thousands of high-value (rich) foreigners are being sought to boost the Thai economy. If you think one million baht is a fortune, this visa isn’t for you. The authorities are thinking more in terms of one million US dollars. The cheapest category is for retirees over 50 and your annual income must be at least 80,000 baht monthly, or less with additional cash or bond investments in Thailand. But whether seniors will want to bother with the bureaucracy and readily ditch simpler alternatives such as the annual “O” extension of stay or the Elite – remains to be seen.

Another targeted group are the digital nomads – a somewhat shadowy breed who apparently travel the world with a suitcase computer and require only a Wifi connection on the beach or in a cafe – and may feel in need for a more secure visa. Thailand is well-known as a popular hangout, but this may have more to do with the fact the nomads are invariably ignored by Thai immigration as long as they are not obviously stealing jobs from the locals. The LTR has detailed rules for the nomads, including showing a detailed contract, proving earnings over the past two years and reporting annually to the Thai inland revenue. Compared with the Indonesian nomad visa which guarantees a five year tax exemption, or some Caribbean countries which even offer citizenship, the Thai version looks cumbersome.

The remaining groups are the global idle-rich and, more significantly, business executives and hi-tech specialists likely to be attracted by automatic digital work permits which don’t require proof applicants have at least four Thai co-workers and a standard rate of income tax of 17 percent (the highest rate is currently 35 percent). Some of these are already working in the Eastern Economic Corridor, having already taken advantage of the four-year Smart visa introduced in 2018 which removed the need for a separate work permit anyway. The Bangkok-based European Association for Business and Commerce commented that the LTR isn’t really a game changer in this regard.

The other LTR perks apply to all categories and include no need to get re-entry permits or to report location every 90 days and minor attractions such as fast-track at airports, the latter bonus already being offered to Elite visa holders. Amongst the downside factors are a registration fee, compulsory and ongoing medical insurance, regular checks with the internal revenue service and the need to renew the visa after five years: it’s actually 5×2 years. The LTR does not carry the automatic right to buy 1 rai of land (1,600 sqm), but any foreigners investing 40 million baht for at least three years may be able to do so. The proposal is currently being tabled to the Thai Cabinet. The Board of Investment, which actually runs LTR, says that the detailed rules may be amended in the future. The early signs are that’s going to be necessary sooner rather than later.

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Pattaya’s Walking Street still businesslike after closing time

By Barry Kenyon

September 3, 2022

With the official booze sales ban still beginning two in the morning, most of Pattaya’s nightery districts are in darkness by three. But the city’s famous Walking Street has found an unexpected new future as dawn approaches: pleasure without alcohol. The area is still quite busy with buskers, Thai food carts, burger stalls, mobile clothes stores, hawkers and informal street gatherings where no intoxicating liquor is being consumed. Openly that is.

The Old Weed Man cafeteria is open for legitimate purchases and there’s even a queue at the 7/11 convenience store, mostly for coffee. A foreign exchange bureau is still attracting customers at pre-dawn four o’clock, whilst motorbike taxi men wait patiently to ferry fulfilled vacationers back to their hotels. “The period up to dawn is our busiest time,” said 50 year old Porn, “as many tourists like to linger even after the night clubs close.” On nearby beach road, there’s even a massage shop still open with a handwritten sign stating no monkey business. It’s a shrewd marketing strategy and attracts attention.

Of course, you can still buy alcohol, if you insist, in some of Walking Street’s side sois after 2 a.m. Mama Koo, who heads up a shebeen or illegal drinking club, said, “You won’t see any police around here in the middle of the night. There’s a feeling that Walking Street is special and can break a few rules. Yet most of our customers are Thais with the foreign tourists often preferring the open-air gatherings which are increasingly popular.” She claimed that street crime in the area was virtually unknown.

Whilst Walking Street has acquired a reputation in 2022 for naïve tourists, mostly Indians, being divested of their jewelry and wallets in the wee hours by lurking transvestite thieves, locals say they don’t believe most of the tales. “The area is quite busy up to dawn and well-lit,” said security officer Prateep, “and the press reports of gangs of ladyboys are so much exaggeration.” He suspected that many of the tales were attempted insurance scams.

Pattaya Mail sent an email to Reliance General Insurance, a popular company in India, and asked what their typical travel insurance covered. Their reply emphasized lost passports and baggage, hijack trauma, holiday illnesses and “home” burglaries whilst the insured was on vacation. There was no automatic cover for getting robbed or mugged abroad although the company would “consider” some cash help if the victim was destitute. Such claims could not be submitted once the insured person had returned to the home country.

So, if fraudulent claims are being made, it is unlikely that the strategy will actually result in compensation being paid. Pattaya has always suffered internationally from a bad press, sometimes reasonably and sometimes not. The jewelry thefts by gangs of transvestites could well fall into that category. As Mama Koo puts it, “If you want to steal a necklace, Walking Street right now is certainly not the place to carry out the crime. Even at 4 o’clock in the morning, there are too many people around.”

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The Thai and British monarchies reflect different political realities

By Barry Kenyon

September 10, 2022

The death of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth has prompted relationship evaluations with the 100-plus countries she visited in a reign lasting seven decades. As regards Thailand, the obvious point is that King Bhumbol Adulyadej, Rama IX, ruled for only a year or two less than his British counterpart prior to his own death in 2016. Only one former monarch, Louis XIV of France, is known to have sat on a throne longer unless the doubtful claims of relatives of Ghengis Khan are recorded as true history.

The British and Thai monarch first met in 1960 when the youthful king came to the UK as part of his westernization tour. Elizabeth first visited Thailand in 1972 and again, more grandiosely, in 1996 which coincided with Bhumbol’s golden jubilee celebrations. In later years, there was the shock decision of the London authorities to sell off the British embassy in Bangkok to the highest-bidder. The famous statue of Queen Victoria now sits darkly outside a department store in spite of the best endeavors of the British Club to relocate her to its more prestigious base.

The future of the two countries in third quarter 2022 looks very different. Thailand sits geographically at the apex of ASEAN, the free trade zone of nine regional partners. She has the second-largest GDP after Indonesia and is successfully encouraging significant foreign investment, for example in the Eastern Economic Corridor, in hi-tech industries. Her political development has been marred by successive coups, but it is not clear they have caused economic contraction. Britain, by contrast, has abandoned the European Union, is suffering chronic hyper-inflation and has failed to find a new role following the decades-long collapse of the British empire. What remains are 14 windswept overseas territories – the largest being the Falklands with a population of less than 3,000 – and a Commonwealth of 56 independent nations which have virtually nothing in common with each other or the mother country.

Elizabeth performed her mostly honorary duties to perfection during a long reign. She rarely voiced publicly a political preference although her suggestion that the people of Scotland should think very carefully before voting in the independence referendum was a notable exception. Her son and successor, Charles III, will receive the same pomp and ceremony, but the realities are now different. He is already on record as being partisan, even tactless, with a liking for personal correspondence with ministers. And he is already well past retirement age in most occupations.

Meanwhile, the antics of some members of the royal family and their partners, spread by social media and without the protection of Thai-style lese majeste laws, are emboldening republican sentiment. The withdrawal of both Scotland and Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom is a distinct possibility in the medium term: most polls in both countries show a neck and neck polarization. The steadying and unifying presence of Elizabeth II is going to be very sorely missed.

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Thailand streets-ahead of competitors in the popularity stakes

By Barry Kenyon

September 14, 2022

Travel agents say that the recent decriminalization of marijuana use and the forthcoming move to allow same-gender civil unions or marriage make Thailand the most liberal tourist destination in south east Asia. Global Travel executive Colin Holmes said, “Progress on these fronts is the last thing we expected from a government led by a military junta, but there’s even talk now of permitting casinos as well.”

UK travel agencies Dream Travel and Luxury Hols say the main limiting factor for travel to Thailand right now is shortage of flights rather than disinclination to take to the skies. They also point out that extending visa stays in Thailand, without leaving the country, is a good deal simpler than in other competitor countries. For example, Vietnam makes it hard to stay longer than 30 days, whilst the Philippines hasn’t yet dismantled its anti-Covid entry bureaucracy like Thailand has.

As early as 2018, the junta-appointed parliament approved the medical use of marijuana, citing health reasons, but a wider push resulted in the drug no longer being listed as a banned substance under the narcotics act last June. Although the detailed legal situation remains controversial, smoking pot in private is ignored although public use could be prosecuted under public nuisance legislation. Government propaganda maintains the aim is not to create a stoner’s paradise but to offer a retreat to well-heeled tourists seeking medical treatment here.

There are currently two gay rights bills in the Thai parliament awaiting their second and third readings. One would permit full gay marriage and the other a slightly-diluted civil union. The Bangkok-based Rainbow Alliance says it’s is even possible both will be passed to permit maximum choice. But the tiny majority of the military-backed coalition government means that a formal announcement could be as late as mid-2023 after the next scheduled general election. The only country in Asia currently to have legitimized gay marriage is Taiwan, although there are exclusions. For example, an LBGTQ+ Taiwanese national may not marry a foreigner.

Thailand right now is a land of contradictions, a combination of tight rules on the one hand and free-wheeling on the other. The monarchy is considered a spiritual pillar and any criticism invites a 15 year jail sentence. Booze laws are archaic and it is still illegal to buy alcohol in a store outside the hours 11.00-14.00 and 17.00-23.00. The Asian sex trade is alive and kicking (howbeit with occasional police raids and a strict policy on under-age) even though prostitution in Thailand has been illegal since 1960.

None the less, Thailand is now a trailblazer for tourist Asia. Whilst countries like Singapore and Malaysia retain the death penalty for cannabis trafficking, Thailand’s liberal agenda is proving both attractive and cash-savvy. As Anutin Charnvirakul, construction tycoon and minister of health, puts it, “We want Thai people to grow cannabis as a cash crop and to promote quality tourism at the same time.” Casinos won’t be far behind.

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One day Cambodian visa runs restart from Pattaya

By Barry Kenyon

September 19, 2022

After a hiatus of several years, Pattaya residents and tourists can now join minibus visa runs to Pong Nam Ron (Hot Water Spring) to extend their visit to Thailand without overnight stays. Departure point is Jomtien Soi 5 (law offices next to immigration bureau) at 7 am and being back around 4 pm. The regularity of the schedule depends on numbers of customers.

Tourists and expats with a variety of renewable visas, or requiring a new 30 days visa exempt, are able to use the new service. However, foreigners who initially entered Thailand with a 15 days visa on arrival need a Cambodian visa in advance and cannot be processed at border posts without one.

Jessataporn Bunnag, the attorney heading the International Law Office, said, “The bureaucracy is a little more complex than it used to be, so we recommend potential customers contacting us first.” He pointed out that Thai immigration rules restrict the number of land border entries for many foreigners to two in a 12 months period.

The inclusive cost of the new escorted service is 5,500 baht. The telephone contact number for enquiries is 087 513 3333, or call in at the law office and photocopy service in the Jomtien immigration car park.

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