By Barry Kenyon

Anything and everything about Thailand
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Thai immigration updates: November 2022

By Barry Kenyon

November 13, 2022

Here’s a new selection of common questions being asked by foreigners at immigration offices this month.

Why are annual retirement extensions of stay excluded from the electronic scheme for renewals recently announced?

For the moment, the electronic visa extension for expats and visitors already in Thailand is on pilot in Bangkok. Those requiring extensions of stay of tourist visas and visa exempt categories, annual extensions based on marriage or family, student visas and certain work-related groups can submit documents and payment online and collect their new permission from Chaeng Watthana immigration headquarters. The exclusion of retirement categories reflects the different rules operated by immigration offices nationwide and the specific documentation required. Examples include exact insurance requirements for O/A renewals, precise proof that income or cash in the bank has been submitted from abroad and documents to prove the address where the applicant is living in Thailand.


Why has the promise to allow 10 year visa holders to purchase a small plot of land been rescinded?

It was never an absolute promise to allow foreigners with an LTR (long term residence) visa and an investment of at least 40 million baht to purchase one rai for residential purposes. A final decision on the matter was removed from Cabinet agenda this month and is unlikely to return. The proposal was unpopular with many politicians (especially with an election looming) lest it pushes up the cost of land when many. Thais are too poor to buy their own homes. The proposal was also ambiguous on the detail, for example how, when and to whom a foreign purchaser could resell his or her holding. The fear that Chinese conglomerates might buy up parts of urban areas also seems to have been an issue.


Is Thailand still requiring any visitors and expats to have ongoing medical insurance to renew or extend their visas?

For most visa categories, the requirement to have medical insurance has disappeared as Thailand decided to compete with neighbors such as Cambodia and Vietnam which similarly liberalized entry rules to boost their economies. But there are Thai exceptions. Applicants at Thai embassies abroad for a visa specifically related to retirement will require a comprehensive health policy which will need to be renewed at extension time in Thai immigration if the visa is O/A category (but not O). The other visas currently requiring ongoing medical insurance are O/X 10-year retirement visas and 10-year LTR long term residence visas. Those converting a tourist visa to non O retirement at Thai immigration do not require insurance. Nor do foreigners seeking visas or extensions based on marriage or family, nor those with the Elite visa.

https://www.pattayamail.com/latestnews/ ... 022-415958

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Cannabis backpedalling in Thailand reflects general election woes

By Barry Kenyon

November 18, 2022

The latest Ministry of Health “orders” ban the smoking of cannabis flowers in any business premises (unless supervised by a medical expert) and forbids selling via vending machines, mobile retailers or commercial advertising at a range of premises including amusement parks, zoos and a list of places where children might gather. Weed cafes, which have recently become common in Pattaya, appear to be operating illegally or under the radar. Much will depend on whether the police choose to enforce “orders” which are not derived from an act of parliament.

The ongoing ambiguity reflects the maneuvering by Thai political leaders in advance of the general election to be held early next year. The Bhumjaithai party, an important coalition partner led by health minister Anutin Charnvirakul, pushed for decriminalization of ganja last summer to increase popularity by allowing citizens to grow and sell the crop. The recent ministry “orders” are an attempt at compromise in view of bad publicity about schoolchildren smoking in playgrounds, high hospital admissions after illegally high doses and reports that Bangkok and Pattaya have become the New Amsterdam.

Pheu Thai, the main opposition party, wants cannabis to be made an illegal narcotic once again which would ban possession, cultivation and smoking without medical supervision. Their leaders argue that weed liberalization has gone too far and are banking on conservative public opinion agreeing. The smaller Democrat Party is particularly suspicious of cannabis cafes and dispensaries posing as medical clinics but in reality encouraging leisure smoking. Leaders quote a recent Chulalongkorn university study which has found that 30 percent of cannabis-infused drinks exceeded the legal THC levels.

Meanwhile, tourists and expats say they are still confused about the status of leisure smoking. Websites and media posts such as Universal Cannabis and MJBizDaily say they are deluged with enquiries. For the moment, cannabis smoking in private is legal, although there is a debate about the status of hotels in this context. It is certainly legal to buy cannabis in units with qualified medical personnel on duty, but other retail outlets are now suspect. It is also legal to purchase and consume ganja-infused food and drink as long as the 2 percent THC level is not breeched. The elephant in the room is now enforcement, or lack of it. The Ministry of Health has too few inspectors even to begin to check the streets. The police so far have remained silent.

https://www.pattayamail.com/latestnews/ ... oes-416595

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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Three articles from Barry today. I'm sorry to put all three of them within one post. My excuse is I've had computer and internet problems for the past few days and had to do everything using my tablet rather then my desktop and didn't have a chance to get to Barry's articles until now. Those problems are fixed now.
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Good news continues to pour into Pattaya’s open arms

By Barry Kenyon

November 20, 2022

A year ago Pattaya was a ghost town, but the exorcism has been a remarkable success. International tourism has rebounded to around 60 percent of its pre-covid levels, whilst domestic tourism by Thais is responsible for the weekend traffic jams which are, alas, becoming routine. Travel agents complain that the shortage of flights, especially from Europe, is the main stumbling block to an even faster boom. Costs have doubled but the demand verges on insatiable.

The eastern chapter of the hoteliers’ association notes that some five star venues are already a sellout for the upcoming festive season. Charter flights from Russia are starting again, whilst a resumption of Chinese mass tourism is expected early next year. Although U-Tapao (Rayong) airport is still mainly a base for domestic routes, there are grandiose plans to create a regional hub once infrastructure progress is complete.

Meanwhile, culture minister Ittiphol Khunpluem has announced plans to promote traditional Thai culture on the international stage and to designate Pattaya as the center of the film industry by offering cash rebates on production shoots and easier access to short-time work permits for foreign crews. It’s a far cry from the traditional fears of Thai authorities that the foreign media were interested only in exposing sleaze.

The recent APEC international business summit, hosted by prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, has also put Pattaya on the center stage. The resort sits in the middle of the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), a major infrastructure and investment project which has already transformed road and sea communications between Bangkok and three provinces of which Chonburi and Pattaya are based. The EEC is also promoting investment opportunities in decarbonization, wellness and health, logistics and digitization in 12 targeted industries. It’s a trillion dollar affair.

There is also growing evidence that European tourists in particular are staying for longer. The Thai immigration bureau has extended the time period for most tourists to stay in the country without hassle. Additionally, there are now several Pattaya-based travel agencies offering same-day visa runs to the Cambodian border for those wanting an extra 45 days in Thailand, or needing to activate a multi-entry visa already granted by a Thai embassy abroad. Local companies offering these trips three times a week say the frequency is expected to become daily in the new year.

In fact, Pattaya is so exceeding earlier expectations that there is a concern about the city’s capacity to cope. The resort is still peppered with incomplete road works and cable-burying leading to jams on some thoroughfares. If the huge Chinese tour buses were to return any time soon, the clogging could become unmanageable. There is also concern about environmental pollution as the city’s garbage trucks struggle to keep up and smog persists on some mornings. Ko Larn, the island across the bay, receives 20,000 visitors on weekend days, with suggestions the numbers need to be capped. Pattaya is undoubtedly on a roll. She must beware rolling over.

https://www.pattayamail.com/latestnews/ ... rms-416971
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Cambodia decides to nibble at the Indian tourist market to Thailand

By Barry Kenyon

November 21, 2022

Thailand’s post-covid tourism recovery has owed much to the Indian sub-continent. Direct flights from cities such as Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata to Bangkok and Phuket have contributed around 500,000 international arrivals in Thailand, or almost 10 percent of the total to date. Many of the Indian arrivals are single men attracted to Pattaya’s traditional hotspots and haunts, together with over 70 Indian restaurants to choose from. But there is also a lucrative market in lavish, five-star Indian weddings – with hundreds of guests flown in by charter plane – which can cost tens of millions of baht.

Now Cambodia is eyeing that market. The Indian and Cambodian governments have signed a memorandum of understanding to start direct flights between the two countries. At present, there are no direct air journeys from the sub-continent to Phnom Penh or Siem Reap and wannabe tourists must change planes at Bangkok or Singapore or Vietnam which considerably pushes up the travel costs. The Indian ambassador to Phnom Penh, Devyani Khobragade, said the star attraction would be the Angkor Wat temple ruins and various Buddhist sites.

In a separate memorandum, the Indian Authorities and Cambodia’s external affairs ministry have agreed to fund mural restoration work at Angkor Wat and at Wat Bo pagoda in Siem Reap. The murals depict the Indian cultural impact on Cambodian society over many centuries. Angkor Wat itself, which is the largest cultural ruin in the world and four times larger than Vatican City, was originally dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu before becoming a Buddhist temple in the 12th century.

Travel gurus are not sure how successful the new recruitment drive for Indian tourists to visit Cambodia will be. Angkor Wat has traditionally been very popular indeed with Chinese tourists who travel mostly travel in large family groups. To date, Thailand’s Indian tourists have been mostly independent or single male groups. Moreover, Cambodia displays a more conservative attitude to entertainment facilities than does Thailand. On the other hand, research by India Air Express earlier this year suggested there was a pent-up demand to visit Cambodia provided access was easier. Because of the bureaucracies involved, the first flights are unlikely to begin before mid-2023.

https://www.pattayamail.com/latestnews/ ... and-417097
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Elite card is winning the battle of Thailand’s longstay visas

By Barry Kenyon

November 20, 2022

No other longstay visa in Thai immigration history is proving as successful as the Elite card. Its early history from 2003 was shaky, but the Covid pandemic has revealed a growing market for “affluent” foreigners and their families wanting a second home in the Land of Smiles. Sales to Chinese nationals have surged almost 200 percent in the past year and now account for a third of the 22,000 total membership. Brits and Americans are in the top five passport groups. There are several Elite visa choices but they offer multiple-entry stays of 5-20 years for one-off cash payments which start at 600,000 baht, or around US$16,500. After initial payment in full, no need to show bank statements or income trails again.

Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of The Tourism Authority of Thailand which is the main sponsor, said luxury customers were still arriving and spending in spite of a global inflation and energy crisis. He believed that the success of Elite is rooted in the ease of the application, the lack of any insurance requirement and the flexibility of various Elite options. Recent marketing has been skillful, stressing for example that attending business meetings or investing in property does not necessarily require a work permit. The management of Elite has been particularly successful in in creating partnerships with financial institutions and business operators in boom sectors such as health and wellness.

The main rival to Elite is the Long Term Residence (LTR) visa program offering wealthy pensioners, investors, executives and digital nomads 10 years in return for investments or income mostly in excess of the Elite requirements. The scheme is under the jurisdiction of the Board of Investment (BOI) whose marketing strategies seem stagnant by comparison. Also, the much-publicized perk of possible entitlement to buy freehold land has now been cancelled by the Thai Cabinet. The main attractions of LTR specifically are a lower rate of income tax for professionals and the possibility of an alternative route to a work permit. Although BOI has not published any data since the September 2022 launch, the take-up is rumored to be small.

Thailand has a history of encouraging foreign longstayers with cash to spend. In 2017 a 10 year visa for retirees was introduced, but failed to attract much support. A three-year business visa was promised but was never delivered by Thai embassies abroad. The permanent resident program is popular but strictly curtailed by number limits and requiring substantial evidence of benefitting the Thai economy. Attempts to extend beyond one year at a time the visas and extensions of stay for retirees over 50 years and foreigners with Thai spouses or dependants have also stalled. Meanwhile, the Elite card is expected to double its enrolment in the next two years. Simply put, it’s less hassle.

https://www.pattayamail.com/latestnews/ ... sas-416931

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