By Barry Kenyon

Anything and everything about Thailand
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British police won’t arrest illegal holidaymakers leaving the UK

By Barry Kenyon

March 28, 2021

It’s already illegal for Brits to leave the country by air or sea if they are seeking an overseas vacation. From Monday, March 29, the penalty for defying the law goes from 200 pounds “up to” 5,000 pounds and the possibility of arrest. There is no end date for the new regulations which have been prompted by fears of virus variants being brought back to UK by returning residents.

However, Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs Council, said that police officers on duty at international exit points would not arrest anyone attempting to leave the country. Their role would be restricted to questioning people and handing out penalty notices, but would stop short of physical enforcement.

He added that, if arrests were necessary for any fleeing Brits, that would be the responsibility of the UK Border Force (separate from the police) and private security organizations. He added that, as regards residents returning from abroad, 508 fines had been handed out to people who had broken the self-quarantine regulations by leaving their stated accommodation illegally during the isolation period.

The police chief’s remarks have been interpreted that a softly-softly approach to exiting Brits might be in play. For example, wealthy individuals might not be concerned about the fine, whilst others might argue that their overseas trip was a mixture of business and pleasure. The only paper requirement is to fill in a form at the airport or seaport about why their journey is necessary. Failure to complete the right paperwork carries a fine of 200 pounds.

Moreover, the latest list of 10 reasons include some vague categories in addition to formal work, family responsibilities, medical needs and being an overseas student. Volunteer or charity work is now included and “viewing houses” has been added to the rent or buy clauses. Those “not permanently resident in UK’ are also excluded from the ban which clarifies, as regards Thailand, that returning visa holders and retirees are likely safe.

Meanwhile, Thailand is liberalizing its quarantine regulations. Effective April 1, vaccinated travellers will need spend only one week in compulsory hotel quarantine, whilst others will require 10 days rather than the earlier fortnight. Thailand is also committed to a trial run from July to welcome vaccinated international tourists to Phuket without any quarantine, with a hope to extend to other provinces in October.

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Pattaya’s gay scene does have a future after all

By Barry Kenyon

April 1, 2021

There is no shortage of prophets of doom concerning the future of gay bars and clubs. Worldwide about half have closed already and “queer spaces” in the USA and UK are being eaten alive by massive building projects and tower blocks. Pattaya, of course, is no exception and certainly exceeds the 50% closure estimate.

Blame is usually loaded onto the coronavirus pandemic, but that’s an over-simplification. Drag cabaret artiste and LGBTQ+ spokesperson Eggz Benedict says the Pattaya gay scene has been in decline at least 10 years. “There are so many factors,” she says, “Thailand got expensive for western tourists, regular police crackdowns began and digital hookup platforms such as Grindr and Hornet replaced chrome poles, dark rooms and dance floors.”

Her work colleague Mattress Lil points out that the three main gay districts in Pattaya are very different. “Boyztown in its heyday was the posh area, but basically priced itself out of the market.

Sunee Plaza catered for the men looking for young teens and that scene was obliterated by the police years ago. Jomtien Complex, also known as Super Town, has survived as an open bar area with no nightclubs. It’s generally quiet these days, but the Thai and foreign operators are mostly wealthy and are biding their time.”

But both predict that there will be a comeback once the virus subsides. “Foreign gay tourists don’t just want a casual pickup, they want company and entertainment which are things the internet can’t provide in a real form,” prophesied Eggz, “even though the next influx will be Chinese and Asians rather than Europeans.” This idea that community rather than casual sex is the key to the future gay scene was voiced by many Pattaya old hands.

Chris Summers, who has wide experience of running gay businesses said, “You have to remember that the organized Pattaya gay scene is geared to foreigners’ wallets virtually one hundred percent. Gay Thais prefer to meet other Thais via the internet or at private parties.” He added that the days of go-go boys wearing numbers on their underpants for ogling foreigners were rapidly coming to an end. “The bars that survive after the pandemic will be cosy and relaxed rather than the noisy, seedy knocking shops of the past.”

Gay prostitution will survive for obvious reasons, but that too will change. “It will become much more expensive,” Chris predicted, “as the Thai economy diversifies, the country becomes wealthier (post Covid) and selling your body is no longer a convincing career route as Thailand ages demographically whilst the birth rate plunges.” By the end of the current decade more than half of all Thais will be in their fifties or later. By 2040 the working age population will be smaller than the retired cohorts.

Khun Nam, a currently unemployed worker at Pattaya’s Tiffany’s cabaret, stresses that transvestite shows were never aimed primarily at gay tourists. “Before the pandemic, there were four huge Pattaya theatres catering nightly for hundreds of Chinese family tourists arriving in coaches twice or three times nightly.” He added that about 500 professional cabaret artists would soon return to work once quarantine is no longer required for visitors. That could be before Christmas.

Kevin Smythe, a computer specialist living in Pattaya, said, “New technology has its limits in Thailand. For example, the media communications platform Zoom in theory can provide gay virtual entertainment and lively music in your own home. But it has not taken off in Thailand. Most of the staff employed in gay bars and clubs are temporary or non-secured staff. They can’t make any money from virtual customers. They need people coming in through the door.”

Pattaya City in 2021 is in a state of flux. Even the pandemic hasn’t stopped the building boom whilst the industrial Eastern Economic Corridor has already removed most of the greenery and wildlife between Pattaya and Rayong. The “old” Pattaya is not about to return, but – over time – will assume new tourist functions in response to developing markets. The future gay scene is no exception to the rule.

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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I wish Barry could have been more specific about how this might affect expats already living in Thailand. Maybe it is not yet clear to him either, but I am hoping we might be relieved of the 800,000 baht requirement for the retirement visa. We shall see.

I also like the idea of being able to buy property. If that works out, maybe I can buy my own house. I paid for it, but technically I don't own it.

If you're wondering why I didn't post this under "Announcements", it's because there is not yet anything to announce. These are proposals, so we will have to wait and see what comes to pass. I've learned not to hold my breath for these sorts of things.
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Thailand to amend immigration rules to lure one million wealthy foreigners

By Barry Kenyon

April 2, 2021

The Thai government is drawing up new plans targeting better-off foreigners to come and work or retire in the country. Deputy Prime Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow said that the government’s top economic committee had approved in principle a number of measures for the post-pandemic era.

Top of the list is the Smart visa for investors, skilled workers and entrepreneurs in S-curve industries such as robotics, biofuels, electronics, renewable energy and medical hub. The attractions include abolition of the 90 day address reporting to immigration, fast-track passage at airports and no need to have a separate work permit.

The Smart visa also enables the spouse and children of the holder to live, work or study in Thailand without further bureaucracy. The multiple-entry visa lasts initially for four years with an annual check at immigration. The Eastern Economic Corridor, adjacent to Pattaya, is a centre for S-curve industries with a modest 300 individuals qualifying to date.

To further sweeten the deal, the government’s top economic committee has ordered a review of how foreigners would be able to buy a house (in addition to a condominium unit) without the need to establish a company with Thais as majority shareholders. Property owners might also qualify for specified working without a separate permit.

Other plans include the extended use of the Elite visa which grants a multiple-entry stay of 5-20 years in exchange for an initial cash payment of 600,000-1.2 million baht. Further possibilities for luring foreigners with the Elite visa include cancellation of 90 days reporting and the chance for the wealthiest sector to buy new property from developers and perhaps qualify for permanent residency without the need for any visa at all.

It is understood that the government review will also encompass regular retirees with one year extensions of stay requiring a modest monthly income or cash deposits in a Thai bank. If the government wishes to attract one million foreigners to be based here, it will presumably have to take account of pensioners with an income far less than 100,000 baht per month. Working parties will report again to the Centre for Economic Situation Administration at the beginning of May.

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Holiday Brits are still banned from Thailand

By Barry Kenyon

April 6, 2021

The British prime minister has announced that it is still too early to predict when Brits may be able to travel abroad for “non-compulsory” journeys. Under rules currently in force, it is illegal for UK passport holders to vacation overseas, although they can book flights on an at-your-own-risk basis.

Boris Johnson said that all such holidays are banned until May 17 at the earliest, but promised that a traffic-lights system was on the cards. Countries would be labeled red, amber or green, based on their vaccination record, rates of infection, emerging new variants and laboratory models known as genomic sequencing. Green-labeled countries might be visited without the need for quarantine on return, although Covid tests would still be needed before and after the holiday.

The chances of Thailand being included on the green list for the next few months are regarded as slim. A mass vaccination program in Thailand has not yet begun, except in Phuket where a pilot scheme is under way. New variants are still in a problem in Bangkok where recently-discovered clusters have now led to the closure of some 200 bars and clubs. Random testing is not used widely in the country, although test-and-trace policies in districts where a virus outbreak has occurred have mostly been very positive.

Other Southeast Asian countries are also having problems. Cambodia, Thailand’s neighbor, has introduced a curfew and lockdown in the capital Phnom Penh, whilst soaring infection rates in the Philippines have led to a total travel ban from there to the UK and other countries. Virus outbreaks in Myanmar have been complicated by the incipient civil war which has led to homeless people crowding the Thai land borders.

The lack of clarity in the current British response to holiday travel was attacked by Clive Warren, chief executive of the Business Travel Association, who said it was “beyond disappointing”. The travel consultancy PC Agency said the government can’t continue “just kicking the can down the road,” adding that hundreds of thousands of jobs were at risk.

Meanwhile, the British health authorities are working on digital and non-digital ways of ascertaining the Covid status of individuals, but the government has not so far committed itself to any app. Most travel gurus believe that vaccine passports of one sort or another will become compulsory for travel before the end of the year. The Thai prime minister has ordered a top committee to examine the same subject and is awaiting its recommendations.

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Latest Pattaya entertainment crackdown the softest yet

By Barry Kenyon

April 11, 2021

Residents, expats and tourists reacted with resignation to the recently-announced closure of nightclubs, karaokes and bars which took effect on April 10. Chonburi (including Pattaya) is one of over 40 provinces where the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) announced the ban. Cinemas and theatres are also in the net.

Certainly the obvious Pattaya night entertainment districts – Soi L.K. Metro, Walking Street, Boyztown, Sexy Soi 6 and Jomtien Supertown, etc. – were mostly in darkness as they always are during coronavirus panics. However, massage parlors have been left undisturbed as long as they perform the traditional therapy and avoid “soapies”

Yet the CCSA edict was much more limited than the two previous ministerial orders which lasted for three months (April-June 2020) and then one month (January 2021). Those earlier restrictions additionally outlawed massage parlours, whilst the first one made it impossible even to get a haircut, or a meal in a restaurant, or to travel outside the province. For a time, it was even illegal to buy alcohol in a supermarket, let alone consume any in licensed premises.

For now, at any rate, restaurants can serve alcohol to 10 pm, whilst travel in and out of Chonburi province is unrestricted. Effectively, there are hundreds of licensed restaurants in Greater Pattaya open and serving both food and booze. Nor is live entertainment banned as long as it does not take place in a bar or club. A popular venue, for example, is the open-air forecourt of Central Festival on Pattaya’s Beach Road where food stalls are plentiful.

Although Pattaya is almost completely devoid of foreign tourists, the first weekend of the latest restrictions saw the Beach Road packed with cars, mostly showing Bangkok registration plates. Both Pattaya and Jomtien promenades were busy with domestic tourists and their families. Thai restaurants in particular were doing a roaring trade, especially near the beach areas.

Pattaya City Hall has stated that premises providing “entertainment likely to spread coronavirus” must close, but this seems to have been interpreted to mean evening drinking bars and nightclubs – not licensed to sell food. Yet the authorities have also warned restaurants and other retail businesses to observe anti-virus measures, such as social distancing and customer identity proof, or risk closure.

There appear to be two views on future developments. One is the belief that the government thinks crowded clubs and drinking dens are the main threats and that other public measures are very subsidiary. The other view is that the authorities are being generous for the next few days – Songkran being the main holiday and travel period in the year – before the real crackdown begins later in the month. With daily recorded infections nationally soaring towards 1000 and some provinces preparing field hospitals, a repeat of the far more onerous measures of April 2020 cannot be ruled out. To say the least.

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Barry Kenyon wrote:
Sun Apr 11, 2021 5:39 pm
There appear to be two views on future developments. One is the belief that the government thinks crowded clubs and drinking dens are the main threats....
1 The government seems to think its role is to obstruct people attempting to consume alcohol. Hence bar closures for any excuse, including religious holidays, elections & the first sign of a covid outbreak. Another restriction is the hours for selling alcohol from grocery stores.

2 In the Dec/January outbreak, there were clear reports of covid spreading from a wholesale fish market to other fish markets plus in some illegal gambling dens. They left the fish markets open and initially denied the existence of gambling dens, but shut all bars. So the known vectors of transmission were left untouched, but the bars were targeted, even with no evidence of transmission from them.

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Costs and Covid deter British holidaymakers to Thailand

By Barry Kenyon

April 15, 2021

With British aviation minister Robert Courts confirming that the UK will soon be allowing holidays to “green zone” countries, attention has switched to the likelihood of Thailand receiving its share of summer vacationers. Sadly, the answer is no.

Under current UK rules, all foreign holiday trips are banned with an expensive penalty lurking for unauthorized attempts. But a traffic lights system is scheduled to be introduced next month. Brits will be able to visit green-listed countries without quarantining on their return. On their return from amber countries, Brits will need to quarantine at home for 10 days. However, they will face mandatory and expensive stays in supervised hotels if their chosen spot-in-the-sun is a red-zone country.

EasyJet is already readying its mothballed aircraft as it believes that several tourist-orientated European countries – as well as the Maldives, Malta and the Seychelles – will be green-listed. But a spokesperson said that Thailand was unlikely to be green because of the recent surge in infections and the weak start to mass vaccination. Less than one percent of Thais have so far been immunized.

Thailand will most likely be an amber destination without quarantining in supervised premises once back in UK. However, returnees will need to stay at home for ten days in isolation and take two Covid (PCR) tests within that period. This requirement alone could raise the inclusive costs of a holiday by two hundred pounds or more.

Further costs will be incurred by Brits needing to apply to the Thai embassy in London for permission to fly, known as a certificate of entry which requires pre-visit health checks and coronavirus insurance. There is also a compulsory hotel quarantine in Thailand required of all international visitors with the exact time scales currently under review.

There is additionally the need to take another Covid test prior to the departure back to UK. The cost of all these British and Thai bureaucracies combined could add nearly 2,000 pounds to the holiday costs for just one individual. The British based ABTA said there was “massive pent-up demand in UK for foreign travel,” but Asian destinations look off-limits for most people.

Other Asian countries are more restrictive in their entry requirements than Thailand. Neither Cambodia nor Vietnam is currently issuing tourist visas and both have banned visa-on-arrival procedures. The Philippines is likely to be included as a red-zone country because of the Covid situation there. Malaysia still bans most of its nationals from travelling abroad whilst excluding all foreign tourists.

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Today's article, April 20, by Barry Kenyon is repeated verbatim on YouTube. I have no idea who the narrator is.



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“That’s entertainment,” takes on new meanings in Pattaya

By Barry Kenyon

April 24, 2021

With endless lists of banned leisure pursuits and threats of fines of 100,000 baht, plus a year in an uncomfortable Thai jail, things ain’t what they used to be in Fun City. Mostly, the government is having its way. All the obvious and now shuttered pleasure domes – Walking Street, Sexy Soi 6, L.K. Metro, etc. – look more like Sodom and Gomorrah after God’s punishment than in their heyday as wealthy salt exporters.

The residual population of Pattaya is now reduced to expats who are past the first, or even second, bloom of youth and Thais who either can’t or won’t quit to return to “the village”. This rather curious expression seems to refer to your birthplace, invariably hundreds of miles away, where people are impatiently waiting to welcome you. So the question arises how everyone still in Pattaya is spending their time in a period when, we are told, there is neither a curfew nor a lockdown. Even so, it certainly feels like there are both.

The main loophole is food because you can eat in a cafe until 9 pm and get a take-away until 11 pm. Social media has gone crazy on the farang-orientated meal options still available. The Breakfast Club Pattaya daily goes into photographic ecstasy about where to find the biggest fried breakfast, or discover that superb apple pie and custard to rival what your mother used to make. Stomachs are one of Pattaya’s best selling points.

Of course, if you eat out there’s a strict booze ban. Because Thailand is an informer-friendly society, the established restaurants know the dangers of deviance. The exceptions might be the smaller cafes in dark streets. We were offered a glass of wine in a tea cup in an eatery not from Tukcom where one customer was startlingly drinking from a Chang beer bottle. However, he explained he had brought it with him as it contained an anti-acid mixture for his stomach ulcer.

Freedom still ranges on the beaches. Unlike previous anti-Covid measures, the current regulations permit use of the sands as well as swimming in the sea for exercise and recreation. Social mixing and picnicking are outlawed and the wearing of masks deemed compulsory. This message hasn’t fully got through to the after-dark beach lovers. Sitting in small groups and chatting mask-less on Jomtien sea front reflects the truism that people feel bolder once the sun has gone down. Police patrols are fewer too.

You can’t enjoy a massage, but it is ok you have your hair cut. Although “beauty parlors” were outlawed at the outset, barber shops and hairdressers were not pinpointed and seem to have been excused by the authorities. If you are lucky, you might even manage to have a shave, an ear cleaning, a hair dye or a corn removal. One business which performed all these services did nonetheless insist you entered your name and number in a manual log before sitting or lying down. Just in case.

Massage parlours were ordered shut by government order, although many had already folded because of a shortage of customers in preceding months. One unusual venue, just off Soi Buakow, carried a small notice that they were sorry Covid-19 had closed them down, but added a phone number in case you needed further information. The volunteer manning the phone was called Soapy.

Another no-go area is live entertainment. A bar, not far from the Jomtien Night Market, was lit up and hosted three farang customers and their ladies all sipping non-alcoholic drinks. However, the TV was tuned to a Korean boy band channel which helped to brighten up an otherwise funeral-like setting. When we asked the bar lady if there was any danger in playing the music, she replied if anyone complained, or if the police arrived, she switched the channel to CNN.

Lastly, on a brighter note, don’t forget that cannabis was made legal for certain purposes just before the latest crackdown on entertainment. So you can legally use ganja for serious medical issues and to improve your health and humour in non-alcoholic drinks and food, provided the person selling you the stuff is registered with the correct government agency. But smoking pot is still powerfully illegal. If you get caught and deported, you’ll be distressingly barred from returning to Fun City. For life.

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Thai Elite card visa on hold during virus pandemic

By Barry Kenyon

April 29, 2021

Although sales of the Thai Elite visa continue to be strong, most holders are delaying a visit to Thailand because of bureaucratic requirements as well as a new infection wave, especially in Bangkok. The Thailand Privilege Card CO (TPC) says that there was a 93 percent growth rate in sales in the past 12 months. There were 2,552 newly-enrolled members with a grand total of 13,564 overall.

The Elite visa bestows a multiple-entry visa from 5-20 years in return for an initial cash payment from 600,000 baht to over two million baht, according to the option chosen from ten alternatives. TPC says there are two main markets at present. Some foreigners over 50 years are obtaining the Elite visa as an alternative to one-year retirement visas and extensions of stay which increasingly require general medical insurance in addition to Covid-specific cover.

But the main growth is in the younger age groups who are mostly digital nomads or those working as software engineers, especially from Japan, the US and Europe. Although possession of an Elite visa does not bypass the requirement for a work permit, enforcement is lax especially for professionals who are not based in Thailand but travel frequently. Another option is the new four-year Smart visa which does not require a separate work permit but has complex requirements from the Board of Investment.

However, TPC admits that the renewed coronavirus outbreak in Thailand means that many Elite holders are holding off. They cannot simply use their automatic re-entry as all entrants must obtain a certificate of entry from the Thai embassy in the country of departure before being allowed to board a plane. There have been complaints of long delays in some countries before embassy approval is granted and flight tickets obtained.

Bureaucratic requirements include pre-departure tests, Covid-specific insurance and a compulsory quarantine on arrival in registered hotels. Applicants with completed vaccination are compulsorily confined for one week, those without for 10 days. An additional hurdle for Elite holders is a letter from Thailand Elite Members Quarantine confirming membership of the scheme. Just showing the card is not enough.

Agents for TPC say the Elite visa is proving popular with well-heeled foreigners who feel that it will be the most flexible option once immigration procedures return to semi-normal. Meanwhile the Tourism Authority of Thailand is working with TPC to offer more Elite bonuses in future. These include the possibility of an initial visa period shorter than five years, guaranteed co-working facilities for nomads and even permanent residency for long-term investors buying multiple bonds or luxurious property.

Elite was first introduced by then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra 16 years ago. It has never made a profit and has accumulated debts of 240 million baht this fiscal year. However, TPC says that the company will be in the black this current year if 2,600 new members can be found. The largest current number of Asian members are Chinese. In Europe, that distinction belongs to the UK.

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