By Barry Kenyon

Anything and everything about Thailand
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Re: By Barry Kenyon

Post by Jun »

Earlier on in the thread I said
Jun wrote:
Sat Sep 25, 2021 6:28 pm
Going from Thailand to (for example) Ireland, there is no quarantine. There might be minor hurdles like testing.
I very much suspect testing is needed to enter Ireland from Thailand.
However since I wouldn't be coming home from Thailand for 5~6 months, there is no need to check and double check such things a present.
Right now, all I need to know is that there are better alternatives to doing UK quarantine.

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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Two articles today:
________________

Hopes for the upcoming high season in Pattaya are sinking

By Barry Kenyon

September 29, 2021

The Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT) has reported that various plans to reopen resort cities, including Pattaya, likely won’t bear much fruit until next year at least. TCM president Chamnan Srisawat said the government should make urgent adjustments to various hurdles which are handicapping international tourist arrivals.

He said that the Sandbox concept, due to be extended to Pattaya and some other tourist cities in November, needed to be standardized. Although formal quarantine is not required, Sandoxers must stay at least a week in a listed hotel paid for in advance, but different schemes have their own rules about limiting movement for the first two weeks. For example, it is unclear if a traveller can leave the Sandbox province during that time, whilst the concept of “sealed routes” on and after arrival has received little clarification.

The TCT also wants the cost of Covid exams reduced by allowing more use of antigen tests rather than the expensive PCR method. Three PCR tests on and after arrival can cost 8,000 baht or more in Thailand, adding yet another cost to the holiday. The Council further suggested that tour operators should be free to assist potential tourists with the bureaucratic certificate of entry procedure which is required by all arrivals.

The documents required by embassies for the certificate of entry vary according to the specific visa applied for and even discretion by the individual embassy. But all applicants are required to buy in advance Covid-related insurance worth US$100,000 for the duration of the visa. Some visas, for example based on retirement or the newly-extended Special Tourist Visa additionally require general health insurance worth 400,000 baht (inpatient) and 40,000 (outpatient), a huge problem for many foreigners aged 75 and beyond.

Meanwhile, bars and clubs are closed throughout the country and dark red zones, including Pattaya, have a prohibition on serving alcohol with meals, as well as a curfew starting at 10 pm. The Thai Hotels Association believes that the best hope for short-term arrivals will be Indian and Russian group tours. President Marisa Nunbhakdi said the Chinese market would not pick up until the end of 2022, whilst traditional markets in Europe and the USA would shy away from Thailand as long as the country appeared to close down in the early evening.

UK travel specialist Greg Watkins said there would be zero interest in Thailand until the country simplified its entry procedures, got rid of movement restrictions for fully vaccinated arrivals and restarted evening entertainment opportunities. He noted that Thailand is currently off-limits for Brits as it is listed as a danger-red zone for Covid. But he expected this particular ban to be short-lived as Thailand was making good progress in controlling the spread of infections.

https://www.pattayamail.com/latestnews/ ... ing-373744
__________________________________________________________

Thailand’s top judiciary still wrestling with watershed gay marriage

By Barry Kenyon

September 29, 2021

The decision by the Constitutional Court to postpone yet again till December a decision on marriage equality for a Thai same-sex couple who have lived together for 10 years illustrates the sensitivity of gay issues in Thai politics. The case has been around since 2017 and was referred to the top court after the couple was refused registration of their union by a Bangkok district office and they complained to the local family court.

The eventual ruling by the Constitutional Court will center on section 1448 of the civil and criminal code that only heterosexual unions may tie the knot. To date, gay Thais have very little legal protection. The 2015 Gender Equality Act is often quoted but still allows discrimination on multiple fronts such as religion and security. As recently as 2002, the public health ministry decreed that homosexuality wasn’t a mental illness after all.

Various bodies have endorsed the idea of gay rights. The Tourist Authority of Thailand in 2017 launched a campaign Go Thai Be Free to encourage gay foreigners to vacation in the Land of Smiles. Even the Thai Cabinet last year endorsed the idea of equality for gay couples, although discussion of the issues in parliament has been very slow. Some legislators blame the Covid crisis for pushing civil liberties issues to the back of the queue.

There are, in fact, two proposals which have been presented in parliament. The civil partnership bill is currently delayed at the Ministry of Justice for internal review. It covers property management, adoption and inheritance, but falls short of full gay equality such as pension rights and medical benefits. The same sex marriage bill is currently stalled in parliament and seeks to amend the civil and criminal code to allow marriage irrespective of sex or sexual orientation.

To date, no Asian country has adopted gay marriage without any restrictions at all. Taiwan is often quoted as the ideal after the 2019 act, but even here a Taiwanese national may not marry a same sex partner of another country unless gay marriage is recognized there too. When a written ruling from the top Thai constitutional authority does come, it’s likely to be both lengthy and complex. That’s the Thai way in such matters.

https://www.pattayamail.com/news/thaila ... age-373716

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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Thailand’s booze laws are always a cocktail of confusion

By Barry Kenyon

October 1, 2021

The surprise decision of the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration to allow Phuket diners to drink alcohol with meals has certainly set the cat amongst the pigeons on social media. The restrictions are inevitably complex, for example both customers and staff must be able to prove they are doubly vaccinated, whilst employees must continue to be tested on a weekly basis. How the new rules will be physically enforced in practice is left to your imagination. No news there.

Thailand’s love-hate relationship with alcohol goes back a long way. Booze only became a significant issue in Thai politics in the 19th century when Chinese immigrants first set up distilleries for white spirit and the Thai government urgently seized the opportunity to tax the product. This contradictory dualism between the traditional Buddhist dislike of alcohol and the state’s love of cash is very deep in Thailand. It explains the cocktail of confusion.

The post-coup, military-backed government stepped up the war on alcohol. In 2015, a forgotten law of 1972 was unwrapped to limit the sale of alcohol to eight hours a day. A 2008 control ban on advertising was beefed up in 2020 when on-line booze sales and even delivery to homes were outlawed. At the same time, alcohol can be bought almost anywhere and the World Health Organization estimates there is one retail outlet selling booze for every 100 citizens in the kingdom. The two powerful Thai families, which control most domestic booze production, are amongst the richest in the land.

WHO estimates that 72% of booze sales are high-proof liquor, including the local “lao khao whisky”, which can’t generally be exported. Beer comes in next at 27% and ridiculously-taxed wine trails at under 1%. In Thailand, the highest alcohol content receives the lowest tax levy, the opposite of the situation in most of the world. Don’t look for coherence. The minimum age for drinking in bars and clubs is 20, but Thais can work in them from age 18.

Thai governments don’t usually justify booze legislation by reference to religion. Mostly, they stress the danger to youth, the huge number of deaths on motorbikes, the fact that some crime is alcohol-fuelled and – now of course – the threat posed by Covid if people gather in talkative groups. However, it is illegal to sell alcohol near a school or temple. Thai authorities are fully aware that much anti-booze legislation is ignored. The police function is to keep the lid on sensitive issues, not to root out every misdemeanor. A handful of well-publicized raids on parties are meant to send a message to the wider community.

If the Phuket booze experiment does not result in an avalanche of new infections, we can expect the pilot to be extended to more Sandbox cities sometime in November. If we are very lucky, bars and clubs might be unchained in the new year. But Thai officials are already talking about the need for a new law to control alcohol nationally in the new Covid-sensitive world. Temperature checks, social distancing, face masks, restricted hours and medical apps aren’t going away any time soon. Soon enough, they will all be part of a night on the town.

https://www.pattayamail.com/featured/th ... ion-373982

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

Post by Jun »

Barry Kenyon wrote:
Fri Oct 01, 2021 5:37 pm
Thai governments don’t usually justify booze legislation by reference to religion. Mostly, they stress the danger to youth, the huge number of deaths on motorbikes...
In Europe, countries deal with the motorcycle risk by having breathalizer tests & heavy fines, bans and/or jail for people over the limit, to the extent that drink driving is socially unacceptable. Also there is proper enforcement of helmet wearing. Oddly enough, the death rate on the roads is far lower, despite higher speeds.

Thailand does not police the roads properly, so wearing helmets & seatbelts is seen as optional. I suspect it might be the same with drinking & driving. Then they have silly laws which stop alcohol sales at every opportunity, even stopping people having one harmless beer with their pizza. Then even these laws get ignored.

Laws should be intelligent, targeted and enforced.

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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I suppose Thailand just hasn't done enough yet to discourage international tourists. I'm sure the tourism industry is just thrilled with whoever came up with this one. Great sense of timing . . .
___________________________________________________

Tourists to pay an entrance tax to Thailand from next year

By Barry Kenyon

October 4, 2021

The notion of charging tourists an extra fee to enjoy a Thai holiday has been around for 10 years. It began mainly as a 300 baht slush-fund idea to help out with medical bills when uninsured visitors fell ill. Although other forms of indirect tourist taxation have been introduced – for example raising the airport departure tax from 500 baht to 700 baht hidden in the cost of the ticket – the proposed entrance tax never got off the ground. Until now.

The Ministry of Tourism and Sports has now received permission from the government’s top economic committee to start the 500 baht tax from 2022 but as a “tourism transformation fund” to pay for environmental improvements at tourist sites and to assist the country to reorientate from a mass tourist model to a high-value one. There will also be private company investment to supplement the collection from tourists.

But the idea of funding hospital bills for unlucky foreign tourists is not specifically mentioned. An earlier proposal from the National Tourism Policy Committee to have a 300 baht entrance tax with about 10 percent – a tiny sum – devoted to public sector hospitals with non-paying guests may reappear in a diluted form later. It was never envisaged that the scheme would replace the need for foreign visitors to have adequate cover in the case of accidents or sudden illness.

Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourist Authority of Thailand, said the idea was to collect 5 billion baht with in the first year on the assumption that the country would receive 100 million foreign arrivals as Thailand reopens her borders to air and land travel. However, the detail has still to be worked out with various government agencies and the method of collection is not yet decided. The new cash can’t be included in the price of the ticket as not all airline passengers to Thailand are foreign tourists. Collecting the fee on arrival at airports might lead to utter congestion at peak periods.

The whole insurance issue for foreign arrivals in Thailand is confusing at present. All airline passengers must have Covid insurance to the value of US$100,000 for the period of the initial visa, but extensions of stay at immigration do not require it. However, some arrivals – with retirement-backed visas or via the Special Tourist Visa recently given a new lease of life – additionally require general medical cover worth at least 400,000 baht (Inpatient) and 40,000 (outpatient), with O/A one year retirees requiring it for immigration extension as well.

The costs of foreign trips to Thailand appear to be rising substantially even without the new 500 baht tourist tax. Health insurance, pre and post arrival health checks, compulsory quarantine for some and pre-departure Sandbox hotel bookings for others have all combined with more expensive flight tickets to cause some travel experts to be doubtful about future booms. Meanwhile, the land borders remain closed to tourists with no clarification how a reopening would affect entry requirements there. Fewer policy initiatives and more overall clarification are what the Thai tourist industry needs. And urgently.

https://www.pattayamail.com/latestnews/ ... ear-374321

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

Post by Jun »

The Philippines has a departure tax, collected at a cash desk in the airport.

Cambodia and Laos don't allow us in without visas, but the visas are granted so easily it might as well be considered primarily as a revenue raiser.

As far as I know, even visa-exempt tourists in Thailand pay taxes on their hotel stays, airport charges in the ticket fee and higher entry charges at most state run destinations. Surely that is enough ?
It would probably make more sense to put one of these up rather than have a new tax which is difficult to collect. However, since I'm better off with a one off new tax than a larger recurring daily tax on hotels, I shall shut up.

Also, various sources show 2019 arrivals as 39 million.
However, the governor of TAT is expecting 100 million per year and he presumes his new tax will not decrease demand ?

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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Jun wrote:
Mon Oct 04, 2021 8:01 pm
It would probably make more sense to put one of these up
I agree. I don't know why they don't do it that way. If the total I would have to pay is the same, I would much rather have just one bill rather than several of them. Psychologically, for me anyway, I would consider having one bill as how much I have to pay for my trip and probably wouldn't think anything more about it. Several bills of this type would make me start to feel as if I am being ripped off by hidden costs I probably didn't even know about - kind of like fine print rip-offs.

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The future of Pattaya’s Walking Street is high walls and security patrols

By Barry Kenyon

October 5, 2021

The dramatic transformation of Walking Street from superior fun spot to ghost city doldrums has taken a nosedive since last month’s fire. Huge metal strips surround the still-unexplained Club Nashaa conflagration, whilst many other buildings have been bedecked with similar sheeting for safety reasons. Separately, the number of privately-hired security guards on duty throughout the one-kilometer area has tripled. That presumably means that many of the padlocked businesses still have insurance of one sort or another. You never know what will happen next.

The eerie and empty atmosphere on Pattaya’s most famous street is interrupted only by three still-open shop units: a lone Family Mart convenience store and a small pharmacy which both appear to cater to the few locals still on site, and a Japanese clothes shop waiting patiently for the good times to roll. The last eatery, King Seafood, finally closed its doors last January, whilst the notice “open till late” on the once-popular McDonalds has been replaced by a telephone number promising “very good massage.”

One former bar has cut its protection costs by a furious chained dog which adds its own barking threats to the dual-language notice ordering you not to enter under any circumstances. When not threatening passersby, the unfortunate animal sits on a mat with the logo “Welcome.” A nearby security guard Mr Katee said, “The Nashaa fire has made everyone nervous. Even though there are no customers these days, there is still a lot of money tied up in these old buildings.” He thinks the owners and renters are waiting to be paid off in preparation for wholesale demolition.

Not everyone agrees. Some local keyboard warriors imagine it’s just a matter of time before business as usual returns post pandemic and the good times roll again. They should take a stroll there before becoming too confident. City Hall, for its part, certainly backs big changes to come. No permits to operate alcohol-related businesses will be issued for 2022, whilst the buildings on the seaward side, jutting into the water, have been scheduled for demolition. The provincial electric company is laboriously burying the overhead cables in Walking Street, but the general idea is to prepare for a walk-through leisure and business area rather than a refuge for chrome pole dancers.

The Eastern Economic Corridor, a rich consortium of Thai and foreign big-name companies, is the determining factor. The EEC has already funded several local projects – motorway links, Bali Hai harbor improvements, Jomtien and Pattaya beach renovation, and the hi-speed railway linking the area with Bangkok – and few doubt it will move soon on Walking Street. When the bulldozers do eventually move in, a very different street will emerge from the ashes. At any rate, the padlocked steel fences and reinforced barbed wire won’t be missed by anyone.

https://www.pattayamail.com/news/the-fu ... ols-374503

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Thailand’s immigration procedures are undergoing a still-mysterious overhaul

By Barry Kenyon

October 15, 2021

Contrary to hopeful rumors and exaggerated promises, the Center for Covid Situation Administration has not yet detailed its policies to replace the Certificate of Entry with the newest kid on the block, the Thailand Pass. A new policy for favored countries is due to start on November 1, although precedents in the history of Thai bureaucracy suggest a deferment is by no means impossible.

It is clear that Thai embassies round the world will continue to play a major role in who can come here, on what basis and for how long. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which controls Thai embassies, is developing a new system with the Digital Government Development Agency with some oversight by the Department of Disease Control. Surprisingly, the Thai immigration authorities are not listed.

We do know that visitors to Thailand under the newly-empowered Thailand Pass will upload their documents which will include vaccination proof, evidence of a recent RT-PCR test, the familiar TM6 entry card, consular fees and the like. It seems likely that this will be a fully-automated procedure which will issue online a vignette or sticker visa to be placed in the passport. This would avoid travellers having to present physically their passport at the appropriate embassy, or to collect it in person.

But lots of ambiguity remains, such as the future of the US$100,000 Covid insurance required of all visitors until now. Not to mention the possibility of general (not Covid specific) medical insurance worth 440,000 baht which is currently needed for non-immigrant visas based on “retirement”, as well as for the recently extended Special Tourist Visa designed for long-term vacationers.

The prime minister promised “no quarantine for fully vaccinated tourists,” but they will still need a PCR test on arrival at the Thai airport. Because PCR test results take longer than the lateral flow method, it looks like new arrivals from favored countries will have to spend a night in a quarantine hotel awaiting the PCR test result, or longer if the verdict comes back ambiguous or (even worse) positive.

The old Certificate of Entry system will apparently remain in force for those entering by land or sea. Presently, the land borders are closed to all tourists and most foreigners – except labor permit holders from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. Arrivals by sea are becoming more popular, especially in Phuket and Pattaya which have harbor facilities.

Thailand has far and away the most complex system of visas in Asia. There are well over 20 different visas and permissions requiring very different documentation depending on the length of stay and the reason for the visit. Not to mention 12,000 Elite card holders, who were once told they were fast-track favorites, and the lucky permanent residents who don’t need a visa anyway but have needed a pile of documentation ever since Covid struck.

Then there are the 30/45 days visa exempt arrivals from specified countries, including the US and the UK, as well as the visa-on-arrival people (China, India, etc.) who traditionally queue patiently at the airport to get their 15 days. What dealings, if any, will they have with the Thailand Pass bureaucracy? Let’s not forget too that a new 500 baht “tourist tax” will be introduced next year with no clarification as to the method of collection or the definition of a tourist.

All these, and many more bread and butter questions, are going to be asked whenever the CCSA sets out in detail its entry policy. The nightmare scenario would be huge queues, lasting many hours, at Thai airports as immigration officers wade through the paperwork yet again, or ask time-consuming questions of the arrivals and their eligibility for admittance. Everyone is hoping that the new rules are clear and that the latest generation of computerized information systems won’t crash at the worst possible times. If there is a devil, he will be in the detail. That’s his favorite hiding place.

https://www.pattayamail.com/latestnews/ ... aul-375800

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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Barry Kenyon wrote:
Sat Oct 16, 2021 7:28 am
We do know that visitors to Thailand under the newly-empowered Thailand Pass will upload their documents which will include vaccination proof, evidence of a recent RT-PCR test, the familiar TM6 entry card, consular fees and the like. It seems likely that this will be a fully-automated procedure which will issue online a vignette or sticker visa to be placed in the passport. This would avoid travellers having to present physically their passport at the appropriate embassy, or to collect it in person.
Back in 2020, we had to post passports to the embassy to get the visa, which took just under a week. We did NOT need to post the passport for the COE, which was all on line and processed the same day in my case.

Since September 2021, we have an e-visa, so it's already not necessary to post the passport to the embassy for the visa. As already proven by Gerefan. So even if they keep the COE unchanged, it would already no longer be necessary to send a passport to the embassy.

Quite right too ! The Thai authorities have already seen my passport, got my photo AND got my fingerprints on file. Even for first timers, they get all that before people enter the country.

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