By Barry Kenyon

Anything and everything about Thailand
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My unanswered question, one that has not been addressed, is whether this would negate Thailand's insistence that O-A retirement visa holders carry that inane 40,000 baht outpatient insurance. My guess is it would not. After all, would the Thai powers-that-be want the Thai insurance companies raising hell about the money they would lose?
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Unanswered questions about the new 300 baht Thai tourist tax

By Barry Kenyon

January 18, 2021

The proposal

The National Tourism Policy Committee has proposed that “each international visitor” must pay 300 baht for “the management of local tourist destinations” (266 baht) and “to cover foreigners who can’t pay their hospital bills” (34 baht). According to the Tourism and Sports Minister, the proposal is due to be addressed in more detail in the Royal Gazette after deliberation with government finance and insurance commissions. But silence has reigned in the past week or so since the announcement leading to gross confusion, here and overseas.

The problem

Thai authorities have long bemoaned the fact that foreigners sometimes run up debts in Thai hospitals which they cannot pay. The usual issue is non-insurance or lack of adequate cover and mostly affects public sector hospitals in Thailand. The private sector is well-known for starting significant treatment only after the go-ahead from an insurer or after substantial cash funds appear in the bursar’s office. In the past year there have been well-publicized cases of Europeans seeking crowd-funding to fund serious surgery, though these patients have been short-term tourists rather than expats. The cost of unpaid bills to Thai coffers in this context is estimated to be 300-400 million baht per year. Some critics say that these sums are not huge as non-payment by the few has already been built into hospital pricing structures for all foreigners who typically pay more than Thai patients even in the public sector.

The solution

The proposal now on the table does not mean that international tourists will be covered by travel insurance and need not take out their own policy. The 34 baht x 10 million tourists – for example – would be in effect a discretionary government slush fund to which hospitals could apply for reimbursement post treatment. How they would do this is unknown but would likely involve massive form filling to demonstrate they had first moved heaven and earth to retrieve the cash from the patient or his/her contacts. In other words, wannabe tourists to Thailand are not personally covered and won’t be given any document on arrival at the airport, border post or port.

The collection

The scheme applies only to foreigners and not to Thais who have their own government health scheme based on an earlier Thaksin Shinawatra model. The 300 baht fee can’t be added to the air ticket automatically unless there is a way of separating non-Thai nationals from Thais at the booking stage. That sounds difficult. Do we really want long queues of arriving passengers in the future clutching their 300 baht or, more likely, having only foreign currency and needing change? Those foreigners who do have personal insurance will doubtless object to the double whammy proposal, though their moans are not likely to be taken seriously. After all, nearly 90 percent of the fee will be spent on “tourist destinations” and not medical cover for visitors. There is some suggestion that the bulk of the cash will be spent on marketing Thailand overseas rather than on repairing temples and tourist attractions.

The concern

The main worry is that the scheme casually looks like a bonus for international travellers who fall ill or have an accident. In reality, it looks more like a cash cow for government funds which already receive 700 baht for each and every departing passenger: that extra is built innocuously into the ticket price. Also, travel insurance worth a notional one US dollar (34 baht) is likely to be limited in scope and may not cover some illnesses or accidents. It rarely covers people over 75 or 80. At the present time, all visitors to Thailand must have Covid-19 cover, but only certain groups must have general medical cover over and beyond that. These groups are retirees holding a non O/A annual visa or extension and those arriving with a Special Tourist Visa (STV) which allows a vacation of up to 270 days.

The future

The available evidence suggests that the 300 baht scheme is a policy for the post-coronavirus world rather than a policy for now. Thailand currently allows tourists and long-stay expats to enter the country provided they provide a plethora of paperwork to their local embassy. In reality, very few international tourists are currently bothering to apply and likely will not as long as the bureaucracy remains so substantial and the quarantine rules remain in place. The best course of action would be for Thailand to consider the whole range of medical insurance issues affecting foreigners in all categories rather than continuing to bolt on separate policies to an already overcrowded and confusing scenario. Amen to that pious thought.

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Covid tourist exiles in Thailand can stay until the end of May

By Barry Kenyon

February 1, 2021

Thai immigration authorities have announced that the grace period for foreigners unable or unwilling to return to their home countries has been extended once more. Those whose tourist extension permits run out after the end of January may now apply for a further two months until 30 March, effectively giving a new terminal date of 30 May. The cost is 1,900 and, to qualify, they must not lapse into overstay.

The Immigration Bureau believes that there are 100,000 to 150,000 foreigners still in the country, many residing here since last Spring, who have benefitted from a succession of concessions which have enabled them to avoid returning home. There are three groups. Firstly, there are foreigners unable to find flights to their required overseas destination because of airport closures or indirect routings. There are also tourists who prefer not to return home, perhaps because they fear the prevalence of Covid or because they are enjoying life here. Lastly, there are those trapped because they reside in neighboring countries where land borders are closed to most traffic.

The issue of a grace period for foreigners has had a controversial nine months. At one point, applicants had to produce (hard-to-obtain) letters from their embassy explaining their predicament and there was initial confusion after some immigration spokespeople said the visa amnesty had ended, only to be apparently overruled by higher policy makers. Those now applying for an extra 60 days, up to March 30, are not required to bring additional documentation except proof of address and passport. Technically, the visa extension is a discretion vested in the immigration officer not a right. Applicants should contact their local office for any special requirements applicable at that branch.

But guest workers from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos are not covered by the latest memorandum and come under separate regulations issued by the Department of Labour. The Thai government has MOU (Memorandums of Understanding) with neighboring countries in an attempt to standardize work-related procedures. Those who currently find themselves without employment are being given a one year grace period. Illegal immigrants from these countries are being instructed to report themselves for registration and Covid testing with the assurance that they will not be prosecuted during the amnesty.

In announcing the latest policy for tourists, the Bureau states that the latest information about transport cancellations and lockdowns in many countries means that returning home may present serious problems for some foreigners still here. For example, several European countries in recent days have banned virtually all flights in and out of the region until further notice. Some observers believe it will be virtually impossible to avoid some form of visa amnesty until the land borders are reopened as exit points in addition to airports.

Neighboring countries also have a relaxed policy to overseas tourists who are trapped. Cambodia has agreed to extend out-of-date visas without registration and advised overseas visitors to leave when they can. Myanmar is in almost complete lockdown and the only flights are to South Korea. Malaysia, Laos, the Philippines and Vietnam advise foreigners wishing to leave to register with their immigration police and/or report their plans to their local embassy. As 2021 advances, there is no sign that international travel is beginning to return. Quite the opposite in fact.

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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Since it is obvious that tourist money is not going to be injected into Thailand's economy within the foreseeable future, once again I say immigration ought to give us expats a break on this absurd 800,000 baht in a Thai bank or no visa extension policy. I never understood the logic of forcing us to keep 800,000 virtually untouchable even before the Covid crisis and I see no sense in it especially now. There is a lot of expat money that could be being spent, but noooooo. Just keep it sitting there in the bank.

And why did Thailand come up with this policy in the first place? Because some people might walk out on expensive hospital bills.

Of course if you actually spend any of that money to pay hospital bills or any other bills, but can't replenish the 800,000 and replenish it in time, now you can say goodbye to your visa extension.

You make sense out of it. I can't.
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Pluses and minuses for Pattaya’s chances of recovery in 2021

By Barry Kenyon

February 7, 2021

Both Pattaya City Hall and the Tourist Authority of Thailand are optimistic about a jump in the numbers of international tourists in the second quarter of 2021. They can point to the promising advent of vaccination programs worldwide, the possibility of digital health passports becoming acceptable in the near future and the ongoing possibility of travel bubbles being established with major tourist markets in Asia, notably China.

Thailand has a full range of visa possibilities, including 45-day visa exempt categories for 54 nations, a Special Tourist Visa which can be extended for up to 270 days and a dozen or so long stay possibilities for foreign property owners, Elite card holders, retirees, those with Thai spouses or families to support and several other groups. The downside, of course, is the fortnight compulsory quarantine in supervised accommodation, but there are ongoing debates about cancelling that requirement for some categories.

But hang on a minute. Although there are several promising anti-Covid vaccines on the international market, there is no firm evidence whether or not vaccinated people can transfer the disease to other people. A worrying thought indeed. Moreover, vaccine nationalism (actually selfishness) is rife with 54% of the world’s stock of approved vaccines going to 14% of the world’s population in the richest countries. As regards the future prospects for digital health passports, they are unlikely to gain traction unless the World Health Organization gives the green light. The chances of that happening any time soon are zero, according to recent press releases, because of the complexity of factors involved.

Travel bubbles, once the most favoured of solutions, have gone very quiet in recent weeks. Australia and New Zealand decided not to go ahead after a single case of community-based transmission. Another route between Singapore and Hong Kong also failed to materialize, whilst China and Thailand appear to have abandoned the whole idea. All those hopes of Pattaya welcoming travel bubble tourists to five-star luxury accommodation and special tours to resort attractions have crumbled into dust.

Hopes that Chinese New Year would result in a tourist boom have also been abandoned. Pattaya councilman and a Flipper hotels’ group executive, Sinchai Wattanasartsathorn, conceded the point whilst putting more faith in the April Songkran festival. Owners and lease holders of properties on Pattaya’s Walking Street withdrew objections to a six months’ project to bury overhead power lines after accepting that no tourist boom was imminent.

Meanwhile, the news from Europe is not encouraging. Most EU countries have restricted flights to operations within the Community whilst the UK has actually made it “illegal” to travel domestically or internationally for holiday purposes. Tony Fernandes, chief executive officer with Air Asia, admits that air traffic won’t achieve pre-pandemic levels until 2023. The Asean Tourism Association warns that 70% of regional travel agents are already at risk of imminent closure.

Pattaya’s dilemma, mirroring Thailand in general, is that the policy of offering plentiful visa options for foreigners has dissolved in the second international wave of the dreaded virus. Meanwhile there is no consensus about the reliability of vaccines or the viability of digital health passports. As Europe in particular dramatically reduces long-haul flights, it is clear that no unilateral action by Thai authorities can rescue its tourist infrastructure. For progress to be made, foreign governments have to encourage international travel by their citizens. That may take the remainder of 2021.

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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Here is another item for my "I Don't Get It" list. Given the current situation I would have thought Thailand would be trying to make it easier for people to come to Thailand and for expats to stay or return to Thailand, but instead it seems like every time you turn around they only make it more difficult, and for many, impossible.
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Double whammy insurance requirements face more expats abroad

By Barry Kenyon

February 9, 2021

Thousands of expats aged over 50 face additional hurdles if they leave Thailand and wish to return. Thai embassy websites worldwide have confirmed that foreigners requesting a non-O visa abroad, based on retirement, will need two kinds of insurance before the certificate of entry can be granted. The latest ruling also applies to expats who have a one-year retirement extension granted by Thai Immigration and based on a non-O visa, and wish to return to Thailand using a valid re-entry permit.

The first compulsory insurance requirement – for every single foreigner wishing to enter Thailand – is cover of at least $100,000 for Covid-related illnesses. The policy is available online from a cartel of Thai companies under the aegis of The Thai General Insurance Association at http://covid19.tgia.org Costs vary according to the country of departure and length of stay, but the age of the applicant (up to 99 years) is irrelevant. A 12-months’ policy for travellers coming from UK is 43,200 baht or 12,160 for three months. The cover must be for the entire stay of the visa, or the period of reentry validity.

The more difficult insurance, for some, is the separate requirement to have cover for general medical treatment (unrelated to Covid) for at least 400,000 baht for inpatient treatment and 40,000 baht for outpatients. Until recently, this requirement has been limited to retirees with 0/A (one year) and 0/X (10 years) visas granted by Thai embassies in the home country. It is also mandatory for those applying for the Special Tourist Visa (STV) which can be extended up to 270 days for long stay leisure travellers.

Such insurance is readily available from several Thai companies online, but typically has an age cut-off point for new entrants of 70 or 75 years. In this regard, it is quite unlike the Covid insurance. Older expats may find it very difficult to obtain general medical cover or receive endorsed policies which exclude any claims. Some embassies, moreover, are insisting on a policy issued by a Thailand-based company and are said to be refusing foreign ones or ones that don’t specifically meet the small print of the above regulations.

It is stressed that the above regulations apply only to those requesting a non-O visa, based on retirement, from Thai embassies abroad and to those requesting entry based on a re-entry permit. The requirement does not currently apply to retirees applying to Thai Immigration for an annual extension of stay based on an original non-O visa. They will meet the new requirement only after they leave the country and need a certificate of entry from their local Thai embassy.

All other categories of foreigners entering Thailand are unaffected by the double whammy and need only Covid-19 insurance as described. In other words, work permit holders, tourists, permanent residents with a police red book, Elite card holders, business travellers, certain property owners, students and foreigners holding family or marriage visas need only insurance of at least US$100,000 in case they need coronavirus-related treatment. Fuller details of the documentation needed to enter Thailand are available at Thai embassy websites.

Eleanor Dawson, spokesperson for the Association of British Travel Agents, said, “Thailand’s entry requirements are amongst the most complex in the world, with similar categories having quite different rules.” Asked when she thought matters might get back to normal, she added, “I think we are years away from international travel requiring only a passport and an air ticket. Perhaps never.”

Visa agents in Thailand are suggesting that the expansion of double health policies for retirees may have various consequences. It may make the Elite visa more attractive as it provides multi-entry cover and needs only Covid cover to return to Thailand. A five year Elite visa costs 600,000 baht. Some retirees abroad may choose to enter Thailand with a tourist visa or visa exempt stamp – neither requiring the general medical insurance – and then apply at Thai Immigration for a new non-O visa and an annual extension based on it.

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Pattaya bar graveyard predictions are hotting up

By Barry Kenyon

February 11, 2021

The assumption that Pattaya can never recover its status as a raunchy entertainment plaza has angered many local expats who have taken to social media to vent their rage. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” argues one Facebook blogger who believes the tourists will be back once vaccination programs are underway. Others stress that parts of night-time Pattaya, notably Soi L.K. Metro and Soi Buakhao are still quite vibrant, while defenders point out rightly that new businesses are still opening up, examples being a popular American diner near Mabprachan Lake and a hummus-vegetarian cafe on Second Road.

The recent semi-closure of the Walking Street for major infrastructure repairs and the comments of Pattaya Mayor Sonthaya Kunplome that he expects the city to reduce its dependency on international visitors seem to have created that resistance-to-change movement. He has stressed that neo-Pattaya will have a diverse economy, quality tourism and family activities as well as a “buzzing nightlife.” He points out that plans include a city monorail, a hi-speed regional train service, a skywalk, a cruise ship terminal, a film center and wholesale reclamation improvements to beach areas and to the neighboring Naklua township.

Now a well-known nightclub commentator has joined the debate if only to say goodbye. The weekly online columnist Stickman, who has described the sexy ups and downs in Bangkok and Pattaya for over 20 years, has announced that he is suspending his insightful writing until further notice. “The pandemic has permanently altered tourism,” he observes, whilst making the fair point that full moon parties with 10,000 drunken backpackers are sealed ancient history. He concludes his final Pattaya section reminding us of the rumour, yet to be confirmed, that all the bars in the Made in Thailand market complex are scheduled for imminent closure.

The reality, of course, is that Pattaya was already losing its appeal as a nitery paradise long before the virus took its deadly toll. Many would argue that the city’s Walking Street and other entertainment districts were well past their sell-by date anyway as the crowds diminished and the sex shows grew tamer owing to local police raids reacting to national government pressures. For the future, mass tourism will be impossible if only because travel costs will rise steeply worldwide as governments insist on health testing certification, airfares become more expensive and travel insurance becomes compulsory. As everyone knows, Thailand is no longer a cheap destination easily available for those armed only with a passport and a bucket-shop air ticket.

But the real organ for change is, and will be, the three-province Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) of which Pattaya is a part. Already, the EEC is home to the world’s largest auto-exporting industry, a leading global supplier of hard disc drives and home appliances, and a huge petrochemical industry. The geographical position of the EEC makes it a vital link to India, China and the whole of Asean. The total cost of developing the EEC is 17 trillion baht (US$60 billion) with 80 percent being funded by the private sector and international investors.

It is the EEC sponsors, notably from China and Japan, who have provided the cash for projects already underway. Once completed, the hi-speed railway linking Bangkok’s two international airports to Rayong, U-Tapao will be by-lined an “EEC airport”. When Walking Street is replaced by a family leisure complex, it will be EEC money behind the scheme. Pattaya’s future clearly lies in the realm of tourism, but to service a very different national and international clientele. The world is changing fast. Pattaya is no exception.

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One word:bullshit. I guess international tourism will never recover and Covid is not going to go away any time soon. But if the author thinks that petrochemical factories are attractive for traveling families , he is mistaken.

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gera wrote:
Thu Feb 11, 2021 11:52 pm
if the author thinks that petrochemical factories are attractive for traveling families , he is mistaken.
I agree with you on this one. I keep saying the same thing because I believe I am correct. I think the real mistake is the attempt to change Pattaya so that it becomes a "family oriented" tourist destination. Pattaya's reputation is built upon adult entertainment and that has always been what attracts people to Pattaya. I get very annoyed at that reputation portrayed as negative. In my opinion it ought to be portrayed as positive and if anything the powers-that-be would better serve Pattaya by not only restoring the adult entertainment to the way it was during Pattaya's heyday, but promoting it.

If they want a "family oriented" city, why does it have to be Pattaya? In my opinion they ought to let Pattaya be the "adult oriented" city (I won't call it a "sin" city since I do not see sex as a sin) and make somewhere nearby become a "family oriented" city, such as Sattahip, Si Racha, Bang Saen, etc. - where "family oriented" would be enthusiastically welcomed.

Why is sex always portrayed as something bad when the reality is sex is one of the best parts of being human? Would someone be kind enough to explain to me why that should be denied and hindered?

I lived in the closet most of my life. I'll be damned if I will ever go back to living that way.

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Copy Miami? Miami?!?! Being from that area myself, on a list of cities to copy, Miami would be way down near the bottom.

Copy Singapore? No thank you. I don't think I would want to live in a city kept nearly as sterile as an operating room. I prefer a "lived in" city.
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Neo Pattaya’s future cannot simply copy Miami, Dubai or Singapore

By Barry Kenyon

February 11, 2021

The future of Pattaya is still being debated, but the city for sure cannot be a copycat version of overseas international cities which rely on both tourism and business to underpin their success. Miami already comprises the largest urban economy in the United States and boasts the biggest cruise ship port in the world. Although she has seaside beaches, the similarities soon stop. Many consumer prices are 100 percent-plus higher than in Pattaya with the singular exceptions of gasoline, new cars and bottles of wine which are actually cheaper. That reflects the very different tariff, taxation and import structures.

Dubai is actually trying to increase the number of foreign tourists whilst Pattaya is committed by the local authority to reduce their numbers. The United Arab Emirates are already a prime business and transport hub in the region, but their economy is based on substantial oil and gas revenues and reserves which, of course, Pattaya or Thailand lack. The cultural differences are enormous too. Alcohol laws are much tighter than in Thailand, the sex industry is mostly underground and homosexuality is illegal. Be careful what you ask for.

Singapore too is light years ahead of Pattaya. The island city state is the only economy in Asia to have an AAA credit rating and has 7,000 multinational corporations based there. Almost half of all workers in Singapore are foreigners and the state, prior to the pandemic, attracted three times its own population in annual tourism. She is now the third largest foreign exchange center in the world and one in six households possesses at least one million US dollars in disposable wealth. That includes property.

Such stark contrasts do not mean that Pattaya can’t learn from these cities. Miami is a good example of the integration of business and tourism. Pattaya itself will never be a major employer outside of the tourism business, but the province as a whole has already benefitted from international investment through the Eastern Economic Corridor. For example, the Board of Investment has already granted tax-free incentives for sunrise industry projects here and in neighboring provinces worth 800 billion baht. They include the hi-speed train project linking three airports and huge upgrading to the port structures at Laem Chabang and Rayong.

Thailand’s immigration laws for expat workers – understandably criticized by expats and tourists – have learned from both Dubai and Singapore to be more flexible. There are already several hundred foreigners working in disciplines such as robotics and engineering within the EEC who have the new Smart 4-year Thai visa which does not require a work permit. Incidentally, holders are excused from the 90-days reporting requirement.

Pattaya itself was becoming quite successful, prior to the pandemic, in becoming a popular centre for international MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibitions) which is also a hallmark of developments in Miami, Dubai and Singapore. But, unlike those cities, Pattaya itself will never become a major employer of business, technology and manufacturing. Pattaya’s future role will be to service a broader region in eastern Thailand as a vacation, tourist and convention center. Neo-Pattaya will doubtless emerge in the next decade or two. But in a uniquely Thai way.

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Gay union partnerships in Thailand take a step backwards

By Barry Kenyon

February 16, 2021

Although a parliamentary bill to legalize same sex unions was approved by the Thai Cabinet last July, procedural delays and spirited opposition are making progress difficult. The bill in its present form would allow the adoption of children for legally-registered couples (at least one of whom must be a Thai national), underpin inheritance rights and allow joint management of property assets.

However, the bill does not recognize actual gay marriage, excludes workers’ welfare and tax deduction rights in employment and does not allow a change of gender from that described on the birth certificate. Constitutional scholars say that a move to full marriage would require detailed changes to the country’s civil code. For example, section 1448 specifically states that marriage must be between a man and a woman. Another problem to be debated is the Gender Equality Act of 2015 which appears to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, but then permits a whole host of exceptions in religion, education and what is melodiously described as “the public interest”.

Opposition to the expansion of gay rights comes from Muslim communities, particularly in the country’s southernmost provinces, right-wing moralists and parliamentarians who question the need for further legislation. For instance, they object to wholesale reforms unless statistical data is introduced about the size of the issue whilst demanding more public forum meetings to gage sentiment up and down the country.

Nor are LBGT groups in Thailand united in their love of the proposed bill. Some say it does not go far enough. Wachakorn Thanachokvanitchakul, a 30-year old office employee, said many gay people would prefer to wait 10 years for full equality rather than have “fake equality” any time soon. There is also a radical view in some gay quarters that says homosexual people should not be aping the heterosexual lifestyle in any case, stressing that marriage-recognized unions are often a violent and abusive unit in today’s society.

Policy advisor to the Social Development and Human Security Ministry, Ms Chompoonute Nakornthap, said that government whips were still questioning the necessity for the bill and demanding another round of public meetings to be conducted by the Ministry of Justice which is responsible for the bill’s sponsorship. She expressed confidence the bill would eventually become law, hopefully within the calendar year 2021, provided full marriage recognition was omitted from the final version.

If the bill becomes law, Thailand would be only the second country in Asia, after Taiwan, to recognize gay civil unions. Vietnam has decriminalized same sex weddings but not yet introduced full legal recognition. Gay sex is illegal in Malaysia and Brunei and prosecutions with floggings do still occur. Singapore refuses to decriminalize homosexuality although prosecutions are a rarity for consenting adults. In the Philippines, gay sex is legal but there are no protections in public life, such as employment, at national level though some do exist locally. In other words, Asean countries still lag far behind the western world in human rights for sexual minorities.

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Thai Elite visa gives the retirement extension a run for its money

By Barry Kenyon

February 28, 2021

The Thailand Privilege Card Company has now stepped up its recruitment campaign to try and attract long-term retirees in addition to frequent-visit business people. The latest promotional material for the Elite visa emphasizes that applicants don’t need general medical insurance which is required “for the retirement visa.”

Thai embassies worldwide are now stating that any kind of visa issued for retirement, be it an “O” or an annual “O/A” or a ten year “O/X” now requires general medical insurance worth at least 400,000 baht inpatient and 40,000 baht outpatient. This is in addition to the Covid insurance required for all visas requiring approval by a certificate of entry in the country of departure. However, Covid insurance is easily available online for anyone without the infection aged 0-99 years.

Holders of “O/A” and “OX” visas since 2018 have also needed that general medical insurance when renewing or extending their visa at Thai immigration. A loophole at the moment exists for existing retirees with an original “O” visa who do not require it when applying for an annual extension of stay. But these “exempt” visa holders cannot leave the country simply with a re-entry permit as they will need a certificate of entry from the Thai embassy and fall under the all-embracing regulations referred to in the previous paragraph of this article.

The problem for many retirees is that their age or health record precludes them from obtaining general medical cover and they rely on personal cash reserves. Thai health insurers usually refuse to accept new customers over 70 or require a detailed pre-enrolment health examination and/or multiple exclusion clauses. Some Thai authorities refuse to accept foreign-based insurance policies which is an added complication. It’s all a mess to say the least.

The Thai Elite card, by emphasizing that such insurance is unnecessary for its customers, is clearly recruiting amongst worried expats who fear they won’t be able to renew or can’t leave the country and return, or all of the above. The most popular Elite option – and there are many – is to pay 600,000 baht for a five year permit with multiple-entries built in. However, holders still need to report every 90 days at an immigration bureau and receive an annual update from the Thai Privilege agency.

Other attractions of the five-year Elite, according to the website, are cash discounts at participating businesses, fast-track immigration and no requirement ever to report to Immigration to prove money in the bank after enrolment in the program. There are also more expensive variants of Elite which can include family members, a 10 or 20 year permission and even incentives for property buyers. No work permit is required for business travellers in some versions of Elite.

It is true that foreigners aged 50 and above have other routes to retirement status in Thailand. The one year visa based on marriage does not require general medical cover. It is still possible to enter Thailand with a 60 day single-entry tourist visa or a visa exempt 45 days – requiring only Covid cover – and then convert it to an “O” non-immigrant visa and annual extensions of stay. But the problem remains if they want to leave the country and return.

The requirement to have general medical cover is highly discriminatory since it applies only to visas and extensions based on retirement and, uniquely, to the Special Tourist Visa allowing stays of up to nine months. There is no evidence that these markets are prone to falling sick and not paying their medical bills. Indeed, virtually all the crowd-funding cases given substantial press publicity have involved short-term tourists. The whole double-whammy insurance subject is overdue for appraisal and review.

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