By Barry Kenyon

Anything and everything about Thailand
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gerefan
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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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Jun wrote:
Mon Jun 27, 2022 1:41 am
Link deliberately set to start at 14 min

Haha... 1 hour too early!
5 minutes useful coverage condensed into 1 hour 20!

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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There’s a lot riding on Pattaya’s prospects for a casino

By Barry Kenyon

June 30, 2022

The stakes were raised this week on Pattaya’s future after a parliamentary committee recommended the city as one of five nation-wide bases for legalized gambling. Committee deputy chairman Pichet Chuamuangphan said legislation would be introduced to earn revenue, collect taxes, curb illegal casinos and discourage online gambling. According to recent surveys, at least half the adult Thai population has indulged in gambling over the past year.

There have long been rumors that Pattaya has a secret casino base, equipped with roulette wheels and blackjack tables, ready for opening when the whistle blows. Claims on the internet have ranged from the Ambassador Hotel in Na Jomtien and the Imperial Pattaya Hotel on Second Road to The Avenue mall complex and even Terminal 21 in north Pattaya. There is not a scintilla of evidence to support any of these claims.

In reality, the concept of a legal casino has changed a lot in recent times. Take Singapore as an example. Its two integrated resorts Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa are world-class theme parks offering a range of leisure activities, five-star restaurants and top-notch hotels. The Las Vegas Sands Group, which owns more US casinos than anyone else, last year endorsed the idea that Thai casino complexes might best be built from scratch. A casino hub for Pattaya would best be situated on the outskirts because of the regular traffic snarl-ups downtown.

Former premier Thaksin Shinawatra came close to opening casinos in 2003 when he proposed amending the hostile 1935 gambling act to extend the legal loopholes of the national lottery, some horse racing, cockfighting and combat sports. Thaksin suggested adding casinos to the list of lawful activities. He failed because of internal political troubles which led to the military coup of 2006 and also the hostility of the then Royal establishment to the casino concept.

But in 2022 the pro-gambling lobby feels much stronger. Aside from the Muslim-majority countries of Brunei and Indonesia, Thailand is the only ASEAN nation not to have casinos. Even prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha (personally opposed to gambling) said during the pandemic that illegal, back-street casinos had become super-spreaders of the virus. It is well known that Pattaya’s real estate industry is delighted with the prospect of legalization which will hike property prices. The prospect of boosting tourism, whilst raking in billions in any currency from taxation, is making the treasury lick its lips.

Legalized gambling in Pattaya is coming soon, with a vote likely taken after the next general election when the pro-military parties are expected to fare poorly. Meanwhile, the many arguments against casinos – fundamentalist religious beliefs and fear of corruption to name but two – are being heard less and less. You can bet your shirt on it.

https://www.pattayamail.com/news/theres ... ino-402739

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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Regional roundup of compulsory insurance regulations for July entry

By Barry Kenyon

July 1, 2022

South East Asian countries have lagged behind much of the world in softening tourist and expat entry rules for vaccinated travellers. However, effective July 1, there is wide discrepancy between countries. Here, we examine the specifics of what health insurance, if any, you absolutely must have to survive immigration checks.


Thailand
The rule requiring US$10,000 worth of anti-Covid insurance for at least a month via Thailand Pass has gone. Most foreigners can enter the country and extend their visas without the need to show an insurance certificate. However, those applying in a Thai embassy for any visa specifying the word “retirement”, or for the 9-months Special Tourist Visa, are in a ring-fenced category for comprehensive hospital cover, as often debated on social media. Effective September 2022, applicants for the latest 10 years long-term visas (LTR), aimed at the wealthy of any age, will require comprehensive cover with an optional provision for self-insurance. The ballpark figure is an annual US$100,000, or 3 million baht plus.


Cambodia
The government website proclaims that insurance is no longer necessary for entry. The 30 days online tourist e-visa (from e-visa.gov.kh) does have a fill-in box for insurance but can be skipped without a problem. However, other kinds of visas (for business etc.) do require an international or local comprehensive policy. It is no longer necessary to book with Forte insurance company which lost its monopoly in November 2021.


Philippines
There is no longer an automatic insistence on medical cover for entry as the former requirement of US$35,000 “to include Covid” for the duration of the stay vanished from government websites last May. However, if you are unvaccinated or in a semi-state, you will still need to purchase in advance a US$35,000 policy from “a reputable insurance provider”. Most current visitors to the Philippines are returning Filipinos or longstay expats rather than tourists.


Malaysia and Laos
Government websites have dropped the compulsory insurance requirements but may request evidence you have the financial resources for your stay. Some websites suggest otherwise, but they may be linked to insurance companies not actually sponsored officially by the government. Laos has a health declaration form stating you are responsible for sickness-related cover.


Vietnam and Myanmar
Vietnam is still requiring a minimum of US$10,000 cover “including Covid” for the duration of the stay. Myanmar, now technically open to tourists via on online portal, requires proof of insurance and directs enquirers to a choice of recommended companies. To date, the number of applications has not been overwhelming.

https://www.pattayamail.com/latestnews/ ... try-402761

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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Now Cambodia competes with Thailand for 10-year visa long stayers

By Barry Kenyon

July 5, 2022

Cambodia’s interior ministry has announced the arrival of Cambodia My Second Home program with a 10-year unlimited entry and exit visa. The associated benefits will include state medical insurance, membership for spouses and close relatives and the chance to apply for a Cambodian passport after five years and enjoyment of ASEAN privileges.

Entry qualifications are investment of at least US$100,000 and ownership of a real estate “project” which means some form of property deal. The interior ministry’s partner in the newly-announced scheme is the Khmer Home Charity Association, an umbrella organization to facilitate long-term foreigners settling in. Applications are made through the website cm2h.com/how-to-apply with a short waiting period of two weeks.

A spokesman said that the program was aimed at foreign professionals working for Cambodian or overseas companies, but wealthy retirees would be considered as long as they made the minimum investments. The scheme does not require compulsory medical insurance nor details of foreign bank accounts. Cambodia My Second Home, unlike the 10-year visa proposals for the new Thai immigration initiative, does not spell out bureaucratic detail. “We will judge every application on its merits rather than issuing lengthy checklists,” according to an email reply from the Cambodian sponsors.

Cambodia is now regarded as a regional economic tiger with annual growth rates averaging seven percent over the last two decades. Chinese investment has already transformed the capital Phnom Penh with mammoth infrastructure programs and ring roads. There are currently talks in progress between the two governments to fund a metro or monorail in the capital to reduce traffic congestion and accidents. The lack of public transport is currently one of Cambodia’s main domestic issues.

https://www.pattayamail.com/travel/now- ... ers-403114

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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Thai Immigration: past, present and future

By Barry Kenyon

July 8, 2022

For most of Thailand’s history, entry and exit into the kingdom was unsupervised. Many of the early settlers were Chinese. A 50-strong immigration department, as it was originally named, was established in 1927 and transferred to the Royal Thai Police in 1932. Although regular expansion occurred, particularly as mass air travel became a world feature, it was the 1979 immigration act which established the features of registering and controlling foreigners which are still dominant today.

The end of the seismic Vietnam war in 1975, with the collapse of American influence in Cambodia and Laos as well, created mass movement of refugees to Thailand (which had avoided close involvement) in the years that followed. The 1979 act toughened up visa regulations and insisted on knowing the whereabouts of foreigners during their stay. In fact, the origin of address registration and 90 days reporting was to track economic migrants from neighboring countries rather than the millions of leisure tourists who also became caught in the net.

The 1980s and 1990s witnessed an unparalleled boom in intercontinental air travel. Thai immigration authorities, under government instructions, consciously soft-pedalled visa restrictions by allowing long-stay foreigners to make repeat border-runs or in-out flights to renew or extend their visas. By 1991, one year visas and extensions of stay had appeared, whilst work-permit holders were no longer forced to fly to Penang and back every three months. Retirement visas were also permitted, although the minimum age at first was 60 years and the money in a Thai bank was described as “any six figure sum”, or a minimum of 100,000 baht.

By the new millennium, restrictions were starting to appear. Government research suggested that there were millions of foreigners living in Thailand without the authorities knowing their whereabouts, their motivations or their income sources. Thai embassies abroad required more paperwork to issue visas and the number of border runs to Cambodia in particular was restricted, eventually to only two in a calendar year. Increasing numbers of foreigners found guilty of illegal working, criminal activity or visa irregularities were deported via the well-publicized and overcrowded immigration detention center.

New technology was the key to enabling the immigration bureau to keep a closer watch. United Nations agencies in particular donated computerized systems to strengthen air, sea and land monitoring to counter irregular migration and transnational crime. In 2014, the latest Verifier Travel Document and Bearer workstations were installed at Suvarnabhumi airport, later extended nationwide, which made passport fraud and migrant smuggling in particular risky enterprises indeed. Computerised liaison with Interpol has also smashed a number of pedophile networks, international forgery rings and terrorist groups.

At the present time, the government is promoting its visa plans for high-value tourists and expats. This concept is not actually new, as the affluent Elite card visa was introduced as early as 2003 although it has certainly had a checkered history. Contemporary initiatives include LTR (Long Term Resident) visas with the possibility of property purchases and flexible working regulations for executives and the well-heeled. The precise details have not yet appeared in the Royal Gazette.

The tourist ghost towns created by the pandemic have definitely affected immigration issues. Following the termination of Thailand Pass from July 1 2022, the 30 days visa-exempt discretion for nationals of around 60 countries has been extended to 45 days and the TM6 landing card bureaucracy has been suspended for air arrivals, though not for sea and land passengers. Requirements for medical insurance, both Covid and all purpose, have also disappeared for almost all visas or extensions, a reflection of similar decisions in force in Thailand’s competitor nations in the ASEAN region.

Thailand’s immigration service has grown from a tiny force in 1927 to a huge enterprise today which has a budget of over 350 million baht and a fleet of almost 300 vehicles and sea craft. There is currently speculation that Thailand is overdue for an overhaul to simplify the country’s complex visa system which has overlapping and even contradictory bureaucratic rules for similar target groups. The confusion is well documented every day on well-informed social media, especially Asean Now and its resident hosts. A particularly popular move would be to improve online registration of personal details because the immigration websites in question are prone to breakdown. After all, the most efficient immigration systems in the world are those you don’t have to visit too often.

https://www.pattayamail.com/latestnews/ ... ure-403357

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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2 articles by Barry today.
_________________________________

New hi-tech city planned near Pattaya

By Barry Kenyon

July 13, 2022

The semi-rural provincial district of Huay Yai, a 20 minute drive from Pattaya, has been chosen as the site of the region’s first smart city. The Cabinet has approved the 10 year initiative covering nine square miles which will cost US$37 billion. The project is the remit of the Eastern Economic Corridor, an international investment agency which has already brought huge changes to Chonburi and two adjoining provinces.

Dr Kanit Sangsubban, the EEC secretary general, said the city would be an import and export hub for global finance, precision medicine, the latest hi-tech industries, robotics, clean energy developments and 5G technologies. He pointed out that the EEC has already transformed parts of the infrastructure of eastern Thailand including motorway routes, ring roads, beach reclamation projects and Pattaya port facilities.

Other developments, linked to the smart city, include a medical city of a million square meters now being built by Mabprachan lake and strategically placed near two airports, two deep-water ports and the city of Pattaya with all its attractions. Indeed, it is becoming clear that Pattaya’s future lies in acting as a significant leisure base for a huge industrialized hinterland as well as a haven for international tourists.

https://www.pattayamail.com/news/new-hi ... aya-403688
______________________________________________

Thailand’s debate about chemical castration heats up

By Barry Kenyon

July 13, 2022

The Thai Senate has passed a bill to allow some sex offenders to choose chemical castration in return for a reduced prison sentence. The bill does not become law until reaffirmed by the Lower House and published in the Royal Gazette. Officials at the justice ministry say they want quick implementation as a solution to rape cases.

But Thai critics such as Jaded Chouwilai, an NGO specializing in sex crime, say chemical castration is not a panacea and has its downsides. They point out that chemical castration (unlike surgical castration) is not a form of sterilization and is reversible once treatment is discontinued. Volunteers also need to bear in mind possible consequences such as loss of bone density and increase in the size of mammary glands.

Research in America suggests that injections can reduce sex drive, sexual fantasies and the capacity for arousal as the drugs can stop or reduce hormone production. Several countries already have the facility, often but not always voluntary, although it’s usually confined to offenders who have assaulted pre-pubescent children. Some countries with a law in place, such as Israel and UK, appear to have allowed the treatment only in a handful of cases.

The Thai bill requires monitoring for 10 years and the requirement to wear electronic monitoring bracelets. According to statistics produced by the Department of Corrections, about one quarter of those convicted of sex offences are recidivist and serve another term of imprisonment. However, a spokesman conceded that many sex crimes go unreported or do not result in an arrest for a variety of reasons.The Thai Senate has passed a bill to allow some sex offenders to choose chemical castration in return for a reduced prison sentence. The bill does not become law until reaffirmed by the Lower House and published in the Royal Gazette. Officials at the justice ministry say they want quick implementation as a solution to rape cases.

https://www.pattayamail.com/news/thaila ... -up-403698

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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Thai compulsory insurance for all foreigners threatens chaos

By Barry Kenyon

July 15, 2022

The tourist ministry has clarified that a 300 baht controversial mandatory insurance fee for all arriving foreigners has likely been postponed to early 2023 because of implementation hurdles. Assistant permanent secretary Mongkon Wimonrat told the Bangkok Post that there would be no exemptions for expats or diplomats. He explained that the fee collection for air passengers would be built into the ticket price, but no way had yet been found to collect cash from those entering by a land crossing.

Because many millions of non-Thais enter the country by land every year, the fear is that massive queues would swamp immigration checkpoints as impatient entrants held aloft debit cards which didn’t work, or demanded change from their foreign currency or thousand baht notes. As regards air travel, the airlines Association of Thailand last month raised concerns that taxes on foreigners only might be held to be overtly discriminatory. Even after all the detail is inked in and published in the Royal Gazette, there would be a three months wait for collection to start.

What began two years ago as a simple plan to charge all visitors 500 baht (then reduced to 300 baht) to provide cash to improve tourist facilities, such as repairing monuments or building toilets, has turned into a bureaucratic nightmare which many politicians say just isn’t worth the bother. Part of the fee was said to be reserved for tourist insurance, but the latest announcement restricts cover for 30 days and lists only “accident, riot, terrorism and natural disasters” plus a cremation bonus. Most personal disasters such as Covid or in-patient hospitalization for diseases are not covered as common sense dictates with such a small premium. Expats hoping that the initiative would insure them for lifestyle diseases will be disappointed too.

Other implementation hazards are that airlines would have to decide who is a foreigner and who is not. Presumably, a dual national (many are children) booking a ticket would be charged if showing a foreign passport, yet escape with a Thai one. The details of handling passengers arriving by sea are still unknown even as cruise ships and private yachts become a common sight in the waters of Pattaya and Phuket. There is still no confirmation on any age limits for the compulsory insurance which could make it impossible for the advanced elderly to enter without an independent policy which they likely could not obtain in any case.

Given that many international airfares have already doubled in recent months, together with a host of other inflationary pressures, it seems odd that the Thai authorities are wrestling with a 300 baht (less than US$10) entry tax so fraught with difficulties. Maybe, they should just add the fee to the 700 baht Suvarnabhumi airport international departure tax already hidden in ticket prices. Or as Fagin concluded in the musical version of Oliver, “I think I’d better think it out again.”

https://www.pattayamail.com/latestnews/ ... aos-403912

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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New laws to permit foreign ownership of Thai property will benefit China

By Barry Kenyon

July 16, 2022

Following decades of fevered debate, Thailand looks set to allow billionaire non-Thais to own property for residential use. The restrictions are substantial. Ownership is limited to one rai (0.16 hectares) and applicants must invest 40 million baht (over US$1 million) in Thai property securities or funds over three years. It’s all part of the Thai government’s stated aim to move from an agricultural and rural society to one based on new technology and high finance.

Foreign ownership is a sensitive matter in Thailand for nationalistic reasons and because most Thai people pay rent and don’t have title deeds. Thus more restrictions will follow before the policy becomes mainstream in the autumn. Sanan Angubolkul, the chair of the Chamber of Commerce, recommends the privilege should be tightened to new properties in designated zones which can then only be resold to Thai citizens.

The latest moves are in direct contrast to the historical debate. In 2003 the Thailand Elite visa was initially marketed on the basis of allowing card holders to buy freehold property (rather than just condos), but the concession was withdrawn after opposition in Parliament. In 2006, there was a wholesale revision of visa rules with the half-promise that those with one year retirement or marriage permit would be able to buy one rai of land provided they built a house and lived in it. Nothing came of that either.

The 2022 changes have nothing to do with the typical expat, but are geared towards wealthy international investors. The government is keen to attract skilled workers, professionals and retirees (nothing to do with a measly 800,000 baht in the bank) who are looking for a 10 year visa, tax benefits and flexibility to work without immigration harassment. But the key is ownership of freehold estate.

All the compasses point to China first and foremost. Already, half the condominium units owned by foreigners in key Thai cities, including Bangkok and Pattaya, are in Chinese hands. Board of Investment figures show that nearly 300 billion baht was invested by Chinese companies and individuals in pre-pandemic Thailand. A recent report by the Siam Commercial Bank lists China as the key international driver of the Thai economy overall.

Prior to Covid, Chinese visitors amounted to around one third of all arriving air passengers, a trend likely to resume next year. There is a close link between tourism and investment and many major Chinese cities are within two-hours flight time to Bangkok. China is a major partner in the Eastern Economic Corridor which has already dramatically changed the Pattaya hinterland and is funding most infrastructure projects within a fifty mile radius. China is here for the long term.

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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Phnom Penh updates: visa runs and tourist news

By Barry Kenyon

July 22, 2022

Getting a new Thai visa

Hopping into Cambodia for a visa run is back in fashion. The Thai embassy in Phnom Penh can be skipped by using a good agent, several of which are found on Riverside, the tourist district technically known as Sisowath Quay. This avoids having to make a prior appointment at the embassy and risking failure, a far-from-unknown phenomenon it appears. Mr Keo Song, director of LMN Travel and Tours, said, “We can obtain 60 day tourist entry to Thailand promptly and cut down on the waiting period for non-immigrant visas.” It is no secret that the Cambodian immigration authority actually prefers agent usage.

For those wanting a longer stay in Cambodia than a month or two, there are now a host of one year permits for retirees, spouses, students, professionals and even a permit for those seeking employment. The 12-months, multiple-entry retiree visa costs around US$300 with no proof of income or cash necessary for those over 55. Nonetheless, long stayers must register online with the Cambodian immigration data base of foreigners resident in the kingdom. A source of excellent advice and insight on Facebook is the Cambodian Visa and Work Permit Group run by volunteers.

Bars and clubs

Prices have risen since the Covid blitz, but you can still get a mug of ice-cold lager for US$1.75. International tourism right now is slow with no Chinese or Indian vacationers and Europeans thin on the ground. The number of expat gathering bars has declined substantially with many, such as the old Foreign Correspondents Club, currently under demolition. A newish survivor is the popular Harry’s (on Riverside) which serves a variety of British and Scandinavian food as well as novel cocktails such as Slippery Nipple, a generous dose of Sambucca and Bailey’s for US$4.50. If you want to meet friendly English-speaking expats, Harry’s is a good choice.

About 50 nightclubs are scattered in neighboring streets, not exactly gogo bars but offering up young ladies of the night who won’t hesitate to make an impression on you of one sort or another. The sprinkle of massage parlors proclaim a one hour massage costs US$5, but a closer inspection of the tariff reveals there is an extra US$5 for aircon and a great deal more for special services. The gay bar scene is Spartan by Pattaya standards and some of the choices currently being promoted on social media are locked up or vanished.

Daylight hours

Phnom Penh is a budding airconditioned skyscraper metropolis with huge Chinese and Japanese investment. The Aeon mal, roughly the size of Pattaya’s Terminal 21 with a huge food court, is a vibrant selling centre of global brands with its own movie theatre. Phnom Penh also hosts the disturbing memories of the Khmer Rouge horror dictatorship in the 1970s. The torture centre of Tuol Sleng with its genocide museum and the pits of the Killing Fields a short drive away are a grim reminder indeed of Cambodia’s awful history. Legal gambling in Phnom Penh is restricted to Nagaworld, a huge entertainment and luxurious hotel complex which likely mirrors what casinos will be like in Thailand once legalized. Oddly, there is a Buddhist temple adjoining the premises. That’s something you’d never see in Pattaya.

https://www.pattayamail.com/latestnews/ ... ews-404532

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

Post by Jun »

Barry Kenyon wrote:
Sat Jul 23, 2022 6:46 am
It is no secret that the Cambodian immigration authority actually prefers agent usage.
One does not need to be a rocket scientist to work out why. [Reference is to Cambodian branch of Thai immigration]

Even in certain Thai cities, visa agents can produce miracles not possible in the immigration office. For a suitable "fee".

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