Archive for the ‘Phuket’ Category

A German National Committed Suicide At A Hotel In Phuket

August 23, 2021

A German man shot himself in the head in a hotel room in Patong, Phuket.
Major Chompunut (surname withheld), a Patong police investigator, said recently that the death occurred at the Amata Patong Hotel at 7.44 p.m.
To investigate, a police officer and a doctor went to the hotel. A 41-year-old German man was found dead in room 827 on the 8th floor.
According to the investigator, the man was shot in the head. From right temple to left temple, a 9mm bullet from a Kahr pistol had passed through the head. The dead man still held the pistol in his right hand.
He also left behind a letter complaining about a Thai woman and asking the person who found his body to send his belongings to his family. Additionally, anti-depressants were found. The room was not ransacked. The manager said the German had been living reclusively at the hotel for about a year. After noticing he hadn’t left the room for five days. With a keycard, the manager attempted to open the door, but it was locked from the inside. The hotel employee entered the room from the back and found the man lying dead on a bed. At the time of his death, it was unknown when the fatal shot was fired.
At first, police believed the man had committed suicide. An autopsy was performed at Vachira Phuket Hospital to determine the cause of death.
Police Major Chompunut said the German embassy in Bangkok had been contacted and asked to inform his relatives.

Note: One of the dark secrets of Thailand is that some ex-pats in Thailand commit suicide every year.

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Thai Agency Gives More Details About 7+7 Extension Plan

August 17, 2021

After the CCSA announced details about the 7+7 extension plan, the Phuket sandbox and other south-coast provinces should be buoyed.
It’s been approved in principle by the Centre for Economic Situation Administration (CESA) since July 22 but has to be officially approved by a CCSA subcommittee on Aug 5 and a committee under the Communicable Diseases Act on Aug 13.
Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Governor Yuthasak Supasorn said that from Aug 16, tourists can join this program, which will reduce the mandatory stay in Phuket from 14 days to just 7 days before traveling to other designated locations.
Participants must apply for a Certificate of Entry (COE) before departing for Thailand. The Foreign Ministry will open the registration system this week.
According to the 7+7 Phuket extension plan, the areas to include are Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao in Surat Thani; Khao Lak, Kho Yao Yai, and Koh Yao Noi in Phangnga; Koh Phi Phi, Railay Beach, and Koh Ngai in Krabi.
The province has recorded 394,877 room nights in 394 hotels with 35,480 guests since testing the country’s reopening program with Phuket Sandbox.
Yuthasak added on Monday that the CCSA also approved each sandbox area to receive tourists who are Sputnik V-vaccinated, clearing one obstacle for Russian tourists.
One of the weaknesses of the scheme is the mandatory stay, which forces tourists to roam the island for two weeks before traveling to other provinces.
The virus situation that prompted the lockdown has complicated the situation since public transport serving cross-provincial travels in the dark red zone is banned, including flights from Phuket to Samui. As such, the 7+7 extension plan, which mainly connects tourists via boat, is seen as an alternative for tourists who will be able to enjoy more travel choices.
Krabi Tourism Council President Charintip Tiyaphorn said that after the plan was officially approved, the booking trend is expected to improve from October as the high season begins.

More Closures Due To COVID-19 In Thailand

August 12, 2021

Officials have closed Phuket Town Fresh Market 1 and its surrounding areas for one week as well as the Downtown Plaza market for 11 days until August 22 due to an outbreak of Covid-19. Last Wednesday, 27 Covid-19 infections were uncovered at the market, leading Phuket to a record 65 Coronavirus infections on that day.
The order of Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew is in effect from today until August 17, barring all people from entering and leaving the area, except for emergency medical personnel and vehicles, food and gas deliveries.
Phuket Town Fresh Market 1 and the Downtown Plaza were restricted on Monday by the Phuket Communicable Disease Committee to control a rash of Covid-19 infections. The provincial order was enacted by the governor on Tuesday.
Checkpoints will be set up around the contained area that encompasses Ranong Road, Soi Phuthorn, and Bangkok Road, manned by officials from the Royal Thai Navy Third Area Command, Phuket City Police, and Phuket City Municipality. Test kits and RT-PCR kits will also be dispatched to the area for the Phuket Public Health Office and Phuket City Municipality to test local residents.
During the lockdown, the municipality will sanitize the entire market and deliver supplies and food to those quarantined. Two weeks ago, Central Festival was shut down, and other markets were instructed to enforce social distancing by allowing only one person per 4 square meters.
It took just one hour and 40 minutes to travel across the Gulf of Thailand between the two popular tourist destinations. The Royal Passenger Liner operated a 150-passenger catamaran and a 262-passenger ferry.
It was launched in 2017 but struggled the entire time it ran. There was less ferry ridership than expected, and the route between Pattaya and Hua Hin just wasn’t that popular. Other problems and setbacks plagued the ferry along the way, but when Covid-19 started shutting down services and regions, it was the beginning of the end.
Last year, the Chon Buri Covid-19 Communicable Disease Committee suspended the ferry service. As the pandemic rages on, the service remains inoperative, and it’s unclear when things will return to normal with tourism returning and ferries lining up between Hua Hin and Pattaya, so Royal Passenger Liner is pulling the plug.
The mayor of Pattaya says that no company is coming to replace the canceled ferry to Hua Hin and that Royal Passenger Liner renovated the pier in a way that doesn’t meet government standards and that they must restore it before they can cancel the contract.
A new ferry had a test run last year from Sattahip near Pattaya to Prachuap Khiri Khan near Hua Hin, but it’s not a permanent schedule to replace the canceled ferry route. Plans had also been discussed regarding building a bridge to connect the two cities as well.

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Sandbox Expats in Phuket Have Been Left Stranded Due To Suspension Of Local Flights

August 4, 2021

Sandbox tourists left stranded in Phuket after all domestic flights were suspended after the severe Covid-19 outbreak will be offered a special bus transfer service to Suvarnabhumi airport as an ad hoc solution.
Those planning to take a flight from Suvarnabhumi to their other destinations will be able to use the service, while those intending to return to Phuket can do so as return flights are available there, as usual, said Phuket governor Narong Wunsiew recently.
The bus transfer service will be available on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays until Aug 16, he said. It will cost 1,500 baht per person.
He said the bus leaves Central Phuket Festival at 5am and stops at a PTT petrol station in Thalang district at 5.30 am before heading to Suvarnabhumi, where it is scheduled to arrive at 9 pm the same day.
Safety and Health Administration (SHA) Plus-certified hotels can only book Sandbox Express Bus service, he said.
Several tourists who arrived at the Phuket Sandbox on July 1, 2021, had to return home after spending some time there.
Narong noted that many of these Phuket Sandbox tourists had planned further travel after Phuket before the pandemic situation became so serious.
Several of these tourists are Thais who wished to leave Phuket after the required 14-day stay was fulfilled, and most have no problems continuing to their destinations, he said.
“Only some of these Thai tourists – and their foreign counterparts – who wish to go on to the other provinces now require assistance, and the province is working with the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration on ways to ensure their comfort,” said the governor.
Based on its stringent control measures for Covid-19, Phuket is considered the safest place in Thailand in terms of outbreaks.
Due to the suspension of domestic flights on July 20, the travel plans of numerous Phuket Sandbox tourists who finished their 14-day stay have been affected, according to Nanthasiri Ronsiri, director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Phuket office.
It is likely that many of them wanted to travel to other destinations in Thailand before going to Bangkok and leaving the country via Suvarnabhumi, she said.
When tourists inquire about traveling to other provinces, the office now tries to convince them to stay on in Phuket for their own safety and offers them special tourism programs,” the official said.
Those who insist on traveling to Bangkok have only the bus transfer service as an option, she said, while Nok Air is still in talks with the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand about operating a one-way flight from Phuket to U-Tapao airport specifically for Phuket Sandbox passengers.
Thailand’s top land transport official says drivers of buses transporting passengers to Suvarnabhumi airport are subject to strict Covid-19 control measures when they return to Phuket. This is because Suvarnabhumi is in the dark-red zone, where the outbreak situation is critical.
Phuket Sandbox has welcomed 14,055 tourists over the past month.

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For Now, Thai Travelers Cannot Enter Phuket, No Word About The Phuket COVID-19 Sandbox Plan

July 30, 2021

Starting Aug 3, 2021, travelers from other provinces will no longer be able to enter Phuket, and the fate of the Phuket Sandbox scheme is still uncertain.
Governor Narong Woonciew signed a provincial order imposing stiffer travel restrictions on Phuket on Thursday. Outsiders are prohibited from traveling to Phuket, with the exception of those transporting essential goods, students, and emergency medical services. Those exempt from vaccination are still required to show proof of vaccination and vaccination at the entry checkpoint.
The Director-General of the Department of Disease Control (DDC), Kajornsak Kaewjaras, said the department will continue to monitor the Covid-19 situation in Phuket for another two weeks to decide whether to keep the Phuket Sandbox scheme.
Bangkok, he said, has done a good job controlling Covid-19 transmissions in the province, because 30 of the 12,395 foreigners visiting the island province have been identified and quarantined.
The province has succeeded in tracking down all infected visitors and preventing transmission to communities in this regard, he said.
Local tourism-related businesses have also been compliant with containment measures, according to Dr. Kajornsak. Over the past week, 148 cases have been reported in Phuket, according to the DDC. All of them came from other provinces. There are Phuket residents who have worked in other at-risk provinces and returned to Phuket to receive medical treatment.
However, Dr. Kajornsak said those at high risk will be isolated at local quarantine facilities. “There are currently nine active infection clusters in Phuket, all of which have been quarantined,” he said.
The DDC will wait for two weeks to determine whether there are any serious cases that require ventilators or not, he said. Phuket’s healthcare system is currently at about 36% capacity and can still treat new patients, he said.
The Phuket Sandbox scheme can continue for now, as recent inspections by Mr. Narong found no infections at those camps. The bubble and seal approach is also being implemented in an additional 800 worker camps as a precaution without the need for testing, Dr. Kajornsak said.
“We need another two weeks to assess the situation and assess whether local quarantine facilities can handle any additional patients.”

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The COVID-19 Sandbox Plan in Phuket Could Be Suspended Soon

July 28, 2021

Thailand’s first tourism hotspot to waive quarantine for vaccinated foreign visitors is facing a spike in COVID-19 cases, which could endanger the experiment seen as a model for other tourism-dependent nations to open their borders.
During the week ending July 27, 2921, the resort island reported 125 new Covid-19 cases, higher than the government’s threshold of 90 cases that could trigger a temporary suspension of the program. Local authorities closed public schools and shopping malls and banned gatherings of more than 100 people recently in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.
Local residents accounted for the majority of new infections, and all high-risk contacts on the island have been isolated to prevent further spread, officials said. Since the so-called Phuket Sandbox was launched on July 1, 2021, only 26 vaccinated visitors have tested positive for the virus out of more than 11,800.
Covid resurgence in Phuket mirrors the situation elsewhere in Thailand and Southeast Asia, where authorities are struggling to contain the outbreak fuelled by the more contagious delta variant. A setback to the quarantine-free travel in Phuket could jeopardize the government’s plan to expand the model to more islands and beach resorts to save the tourism industry.
As authorities are watching for more signs of infection spread, it may still be too early to suspend the Phuket model. Official data show that 70% of Phuket’s population is fully immunized, compared to about 5% nationally.
“We are entering a tightening mode and reducing local activities on the island, but we have several circuit breakers in place before the reopening program is suspended,” said Thaneth Tantipiriyakij, president of the Tourism Council of Phuket. Currently, we are assessing the situation day-by-day and week-by-week with the surge in infections.
After the emergence of the third wave of Covid infections in early April, the country has seen an unprecedented surge of Covid infections and deaths. Thailand’s key economic centers, including Bangkok, have been subjected to strict restrictions on inter-provincial travel and on most business activities.
In addition to the 90 weekly-case limit, other triggers for Phuket Sandbox suspension include detection of infections in all three districts on the island or more than six sub-districts; identification of more than three clusters; and the use of 80% of hospital capacity.
According to Thaneth, authorities will restrict travel routes or impose a temporary ban on tourists leaving hotels before considering a full suspension. In the coming days, officials will review the situation and decide if additional tightening measures are needed, he said.

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The Phuket COVID-19 Sandbox Program Starts Today

July 1, 2021

On July 1, 2021, the Phuket Tourism Sandbox, a pilot phase of Thailand’s ambitious tourism reopening plan, will open on the resort island amid hope and fear.

Many businesses rely heavily on tourism to boost their profit margins, but locals fear that the pro-tourism program may result in a new outbreak of Covid-19.

In the third quarter of this year from July to September, Phuket is expected to attract over 100,000 foreign tourists, generating about 8.9 billion baht in tourism revenue.

Four hundred twenty-six passengers and three thousand sixteen hundred outbound travellers will use 426 flights in July. Anucha Burapachaisri, a government spokesman, said the southern island province will average 13 flights per day.

According to Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesman for the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), 249 tourists are scheduled to arrive in Thailand Thursday on flights from Israel, Abu Dhabi and Qatar under the Phuket Sandbox programme.

He said the tourists will remain in Phuket for at least 14 days, during which they will undergo two more Covid-19 tests to ensure they are free of Coronavirus.

Phuket hopes to strike a balance between driving the economy with tourism and controlling the spread of Covid-19 from July 1, according to provincial governor Narong Wunsiew.

According to him, foreign visitors arriving in Phuket under the Phuket Sandbox programme are not the ones worrying the province when it comes to outbreak containment. Those who will arrive in the province by land from within Thailand.

The Chatchai security checkpoint, the main Covid-19 checkpoint on the road leading to Phuket, still needs more staff and technology to ensure that everyone entering the island is thoroughly screened, he said.

“Only those with proof of vaccination against Covid-19 will be allowed into Phuket,” he said.

Under the tourism sandbox programme, Patong beach appears to be the most popular destination for foreign tourists.

He said 1,671 visitors had booked 383 rooms at hotels in the Patong beach area.

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will visit Phuket on July 1, 2021.

On arrival at Phuket international airport, he will greet and welcome foreign tourists and visit the security checkpoint.

Local health group president Manot Saithong said that according to an online survey of 1,112 residents, the most common concern is that tourists under the tourism sandbox programme could bring a more virulent variant of the coronavirus into the province and cause a new outbreak.

Foreign tourists also have doubts about whether they will strictly follow the control measures imposed on them by Covid-19, Manot said.

Thailand has also raised doubts over the effectiveness of Covid-19 screening among Thai tourists, he said, adding that if a new outbreak occurs in Phuket, young people will be affected since they are the only group of the population without vaccination.

Don Limnanthaphisit, president of a club of residents in Phuket’s old town, has called for stricter Covid-19 screening at all schools for students who may have contracted the virus from their parents who might have contracted it from tourists.

Thanusak Phuengdet, president of Phuket’s Chamber of Commerce, estimates that 13 billion baht will be generated in tourism-related income if all 100,000 foreign tourists who have already booked their visits to Phuket in the next three months actually come, he said.

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Thai Bits: New Thai Government Policies Regarding COVID-19 and Land Ownership

June 22, 2021

Phuket COVID-19 Plan Will Be Applied To Other Parts of Thailand

Other areas are looking at ways to open as well, especially as the Phuket sandbox plan remains on track to open on July 1 to vaccinated tourists from low-risk countries. CCSA members approved in principle opening the sealed routes on three islands — Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao — to join the reopening plan on July 15, with tourists spending one week in Phuket before coming directly to Samui.
Samui visitors who fly to the island will have to follow additional restrictions: they must stay at alternative local quarantine hotels and spend three days on the hotel premises before being allowed to travel on sealed routes on Samui between days 4 and 7. From days 8 to 14, they can visit Koh Phangan and Koh Tao.
Recently, eight major tourism associations proposed a plan that would allow vaccinated visitors to travel across Chon Buri’s two mainland districts, Bang Lamung and Sattahip, with safeguards and restrictions on Aug 1, 2021.
The Prime Minister announced in mid-October that vaccinated foreign tourists could return to the country. However, only provinces with a vaccination rate of 70% in the general population and 100% in the service industry would be considered.

There Could Be New Land Ownership Policy Soon

A recent leak of plans to change land ownership in Thailand may only be temporary while the economy is suffering from the pandemic, and is still under consideration. According to one proposal, condo owners could own between 70 percent and 80 percent of their units. A maximum of 49 percent of foreign owners will be allowed to vote at owners’ meetings.
A second proposal allows foreigners to buy homes worth between 10-15 million baht and restricts foreign ownership in housing developments to 40 percent. There is also the possibility of changing the term of the land lease from 30 to 50 years, with an option to extend for another 40 years.
Companies that are more than 49 percent owned by foreigners are not allowed to purchase or own land unless a Foreign Business Licence has been granted by the Board of Investment or they are exempt under a treaty such as the treaty of amity for Americans. The Treaty of Amity allows Americans to own their own businesses outright, as well as to own property.
BOI companies that purchase land have one year after the promoted business ends to sell or dispose of the land. Thai citizens may purchase and own land through limited companies that are majority-owned by Thai citizens, however, the government does require that these companies be actively trading businesses with legitimate investors rather than shell companies created for the sole purpose of buying land.

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Thai Bits: The Thai PM To Travel To Phuket To Inspect COVID-19 Sandbox Plan, Expats In Phuket and Outside of Phuket Can Get Vaccine Without A Work Permit

June 18, 2021

The Thai PM Visiting Phuket To Inspect Sandbox Plan

Thailand’s Prime Minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, is set to travel to Phuket and determine its readiness to reopen for the proposed reopening on July 1. This news comes from a report in Thai media.

The report says Prayut and other ministers will go to Phuket next Friday. When he gets to the island, Prayut and his cohorts will “inspect” the full rehearsal by staff and officials at the international terminal of the airport. They will be inspecting how the airport processes international tourists who “will arrive” through the Phuket Tourism Sandbox scheme.

From there, the group will go to Angsana Laguna Phuket. They will inspect the mass vaccination program going on. They will also have a meeting with local officials about the July 1 reopening.

Later on, the PM and his entourage will go to Ao Por Pier in Pa Khlok. There, they will conduct inspections on how tourists will be checked in as they arrive by boat.

When his inspection heavy day is complete, the PM and his group will fly back to Bangkok.

Tomorrow, the PM will chair a meeting of the CCSA. They will discuss and decide on the minutiae of the conditions of entry for tourists vis a vis the Phuket Sandbox. They will also discuss easing restriction in Bangkok. They did not state whether that would include letting the beer taps run freely again in bars.

Furthermore, the report also did not mention whether tourists would have to wear location tracking wristbands like they were convicted criminals on house arrest/vacation.

The final draft of the Sandbox scheme goes to the Cabinet for approval next Tuesday.

Expats in Phuket and Outside Phuket Can Get COVID-19 Vaccine Without A Work Permit

Expats living in Phuket, who do not have a work permit, can now register for a Covid-19 vaccine. Under the local vaccine registration website, http://www.phuket.win, there are now links for foreigners with work permits and foreigners without work permits to apply for a vaccine. Of course, with the ever-faulty websites run by the Thai government, we had to give it a try and the links work, both on a computer and on a smartphone.

For expats outside of Phuket, you might have to wait. Appointments are full for foreign residents, according to the vaccine registration website ThailandIntervac.com, which is run by the Department of Disease Control. Earlier this week, the website had a data leak due to a “temporary glitch” while the site was undergoing “urgent” maintenance to keep up with the high demand for a vaccine appointment. Other people’s names, passport numbers and locations would appear under “user information” when people tried to get in the queue for an appointment.

Thai Bits: Phuket Revives Amazing Thailand Plan, Thailand Airways Will Have Flights To and From Europe To Phuket

June 7, 2021

Phuket Government Is Reviving An Amazing Thailand Plan

According to the Phuket government, businesses can now flaunt their relative vaccination status to customers if they have a certificate with a literal plus.
Amazing Thailand Safety and Health Administration aka SHA offers the SHA Plus certification through an online application.
All businesses and venues that are 70% inoculated were urged to sign up for the certificate.
In a report, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) praised the program, saying: “The website uses digital technology to establish a smart data system that tracks the vaccination records of staff at each business.”
It can analyse the large amount of aggregate data and provide insights as to which establishment already has at least 70% of staff inoculated and can be awarded the ‘SHA Plus’
These Amazing Thailand SHA-certified establishments are encouraged to apply for the ‘SHA Plus’ Certificate. This is because one of the proposed conditions under the Phuket Sandbox model is that fully vaccinated foreign visitors are required to stay in a ‘SHA Plus’ accommodation and must show proof of the booking at such establishments when applying for the ‘Certificate of Entry’ or COE.
Further information on the initiative can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/Shaplusphuket/
You may remember when Amazing Thailand launched its SHA in May 2020.

Thailand Airways Announces That It Will Have Flights To and From Europe After July 1 2021

As several airlines in the Middle East announce reopenings of flights to Phuket on July 1, 2021 Thai Airways has finally announced plans to fly into and out of Phuket from Europe. Airlines are scheduling flights as the Phuket Sandbox plan nears official approval. Starting July 2, 2021, Thai Airways will offer direct flights from five European cities.
The airline announced on its Facebook page that Thai Airways will operate flights to Phuket from London, Paris, Frankfurt, Copenhagen, and Zurich. From July 2, 2021, Thai Airways is also planning to fly from Hong Kong to Phuket.
The Phuket-London route may face difficulties if Nick Thomas-Symonds has his way, as the Shadow Home Secretary of the United Kingdom has called for Thailand to be added to the Red List, which would make it illegal for Thai citizens to enter the U.K.
Thailand Airways’ flights will coincide with the opening of Phuket’s sandbox to fully vaccinated international tourists, which has recently passed the first step of the government’s review process. Cabinet is expected to approve the plan tomorrow, after which it will be published in the Royal Gazette, making it officially approved.
Despite the reopening having many advantages, such as transit via Bangkok and clarifying the rules for children traveling, the main caveat that prompted criticism is the extension of the stay from 7 days to 14 days that arrivals must stay on Phuket. Tourists will be allowed to wander free from a full quarantine, but they will be forbidden from leaving the island, even on popular day excursions to nearby islands.
Recent announcements of Phuket flight schedules by several airlines follow Thai Airways’ announcement. Qatar Airways announced first, with four scheduled flights a week. Emirates Airways and Etihad Airlines followed suit the next day, each offering three flights a week. Phuket will only be on KLM’s flight schedules starting in October, which was a bit more hesitant.

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