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Foreigners in Thailand worried about their security

Sean Kelly

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Foreigners in Thailand worried about their security | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Abandoned streets of Bangkok - Thai PBS World
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Ever had the feeling you’re not wanted at the moment?

As the highly infectious Covid-19 disease spreads through Bangkok’s streets, Thai PBS World reports the city’s expatriate community has multiple reasons to be nervous.

The trouble began in early last month when Thailand’s mercurial Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul blasted “all farang” (a derogatory term for white-westerner), for not wearing face masks, adding offenders “should be kicked out of Thailand”. (He was at a PR event handing out free masks to travellers at the Siam BtS station). 

A few days later a Twitter account registered to his name doubled down, criticising “dirty” unmasked Westerners who were “more likely to spread the disease than Asians”.

The account was quickly deleted but the message was loud and xenophobic – and also ran counter to World Health Organisation advice at the time. The global body declared that, to prevent shortages, masks should only be worn by Covid-19 sufferers and medics, and that good hand hygiene was the best defense against the virus. Thai hospitals were indeed complaining of mask shortages at the time.

Expat forums lit up with complaints that farang were being singled out in public for not wearing masks. A western diplomat told Thai PBS World that he was shouted at by an armed sentry for leaving his face uncovered as he strolled passed a Bangkok barracks.

There were also plenty of cases where expats and visitors in Thailand were denied the sale of a face mask, being told the “masks were only for Thai people”.

Yet not all expats were comfortable with the bare-faced look being advocated by the WHO and Western media.

“As a farang, I’m embarrassed that while almost every Thai is responsibly wearing a face mask, many foreigners aren’t,” said Alan Simon, a 61 year old Australian retired software developer living in Bangkok.

“I don’t know if it’s ignorance or complacency, but I fear the toll is going to surge soon. I’m in a high-risk age group so I’m definitely not taking any chances.”

The mask controversy was eventually solved not by Anutin’s ranting, but by hygiene policies implemented by shops and supermarkets, forcing shoppers to cover up their face. It simply became ‘expected’ that everyone would wear a face mask anytime they were in public, and the vast majority of visitors and expats were happy to comply with the public will, and later, direct orders.

But foreigners are now facing more serious problems than just a health minister’s prejudices.

Immigration offices around the country have been packed with expats and tourists desperate to extend their visas or meet the 90 day report requirement to remain ‘legal’.

Popular expat blogger Richard Barrow shared the frustration of many foreigners who were being forced to herd together at a time when Covid-19 was spreading at a rate of more than 100 cases a day. Lines extended down the streets as people queued up at immigration offices around the country, putting themselves and immigration officials at risk because of the slightly-panicked situation and people standing around for hours in close quarters.

“Will this madness ever end? We are in the middle of a global pandemic and the Immigration Bureau are still insisting for stranded tourists and expats to jump through hoops to extend their stay.”

The exasperated rant from Richard in an April 1 post, citing Trat Immigration’s list that required expats to “take the house owner with you for interrogation”.

On the same day, PM Prayut Chan-o-cha vowed action after hearing that hundreds were queuing in long lines outside immigration offices from 5am. The government announced it would approve automatic extensions for tourists until June in order to lower the health risk for both immigration staff and foreigners, though holders of other visas will still have to brave crowds to get extensions.

But nothing clear happened, or was announced at that stage, and expats and tourists are still trying to wade their way through the conflicting reports and the nuances of local offices.

More worrying is local anger brewing amongst Thais, some of who remain convinced, partly fuelled by the comments from the Thai Health Minister, that Thailand’s Covid-19 problem is a ‘farang’ import. And that the dirty farangs are the reason that Thai people are currently holed up in their homes and losing their jobs.

Last night a post was made on a popular Phuket Facebook page calling on upset Thai locals to grab some stones and make a slingshot to fire at foreigners who may have been flouting the local curfews. The same site was posting photos of ‘white’ foreigners around the island, most not wearing masks. They were becoming the target to vent three anger.

“#Get out from my country if you can not stay at home shit tourist.”

Foreigners in Thailand worried about their security | News by The Thaiger

There were 5.7K of likes and 540 comments (as of lunchtime today), and hundreds of supportive comments from disgruntled locals saying they were ready to ‘take up arms’ and take on the dirty foreign tourists flaunt. In amongst some of the more violent comments there were a few voices of reason, not many. The Thaiger has contacted the author for comment. No response has been provided at this stage.

Trying to navigate their way through the maze of conflicting travel advice, new rules, visa changes and, well, just their own safety at this time, has been a really difficult time for foreigners, particularly the ones stranded here and perhaps not as nuanced about living with the locals and Thai culture.

Also foreigners are now having to confront more checkpoints and inspections, along with everyone else at the moment. The language barrier, added to the urgency of the situation, adds additional stress. On this note, we’d strongly advise foreigners heading outdoors to carry their passports and any other documents at the moment.

Still, it’s a difficult time for everyone right now.

Stay safe and stay at home.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Thai food giant to provide a million meals priced at 20 baht

May Taylor

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Thai food giant to provide a million meals priced at 20 baht | The Thaiger
PHOTO: CP Freshmart Phetchaburi/Facebook

Thai food conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Foods says it plans to offer heavily discounted ready-to-eat meals for those facing financial difficulties as a result of the economic fallout of Covid-19.

CEO Prasit Boondoungprasert says a million meals will be distributed to Fresh Mart shops around the country and will cost just 20 baht. There will be a choice of dishes on offer and customers who purchase 5 meals at a time using the TrueWallet app will get an additional 5 baht discount .

“Six ready-to-eat meals will be offered under the campaign – rice with chicken breast in spicy sauce, rice with roasted chicken, rice with spicy chicken, fried rice with Korean-style roasted chicken, rice with garlic and liver and rice with omlette.”

Nation Thailand reports that CPF is also delivering free food to impoverished homes in Bangkok on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and distributing vouchers to village healthcare volunteers around the country so they can purchase items at discounted prices at Fresh Mart branches nationwide.

Charoen Pokphand Foods Public Company Limited a company of the Charoen Pokphand Group, is an agro-industrial and food conglomerate headquartered in Thailand. Approximately 64% of its revenue came from overseas operations, with 30% from its home market of Thailand, and 6% from export operations. It recently acquired Bellisio Foods, one of the largest frozen food suppliers in the United States, for US$1 billion, as well as Westbridge Foods, a major British poultry producer with turnover of over £340 Million.

The company’s core businesses are livestock and aquaculture. Livestock operations include chicken broilers, chicken layers, ducks, and swine. In aquaculture, the two main marine animals are shrimp and fish – Wikipedia.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Students to wear mask, get temperature checked at school

Caitlin Ashworth

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Students to wear mask, get temperature checked at school | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Caitlin Ashworth

Students will need to wear a face mask and have their temperature checked before entering school. The Public Health and Education ministries recently put restrictions in place for the start of school set for July 1, according to Nation Thailand.

Schools are categorised as a high risk area for the potential spread of the coronavirus. In general, cold and flu bugs spread fast in schools. Now, with a more serious pandemic, teachers and school officials will need to work extra hard to keep students healthy and somehow find a way to make sure students are social distancing.

“Hand sanitising checkpoints are now required throughout school grounds. Door knobs, toilets and playgrounds must be cleaned often. If a student has symptoms, the school must inform public health authorities.”

Some advisors are saying schools should wait longer to open, while others say children are less likely to show symptoms of the virus. The start date has already been pushed back and students are looking at a so-called “mega term” with little to no holiday break to make up for lost time until next year.

Thailand’s chief virologist, Dr. Yong Poovorawan, from the Faculty of Medicine says reopening schools needs careful consideration.

“If they do reopen in July, class sizes must be reduced to make sure students are seated a safe distance apart. It’s unclear how schools that are at capacity will lower class sizes.”

Distance-learning classes have launched online, but the system has had a few early bugs, with many Thais without internet or some unable to access the classes.

SOURCES: Nation Thailand| Thai PBS World| Bangkok Post

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Phuket chef hands out over 2,000 free meals

Jack Burton

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Phuket chef hands out over 2,000 free meals | The Thaiger

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen many heartwarming outpourings of charity, with a lot of businesses, both Thai and foreign, handing out free meals and essential goods to those affected by the crisis. The southern province of Phuket is no exception, with many pubs and restaurants joining in. But people in the island’s Bang Tao district might be surprised to learn that their meals were prepared not only by a career chef, but a student and disciple of legendary Chef Paul Bocuse.

Pablo Blattman, owner of Dedos restaurant, and his crew hand out more than 160 free meals a day and have now donated well over around 2,500 meals to the community. Blattmann, born and raised in La Paz, Bolivia, by a Swiss mother and Bolivian father, says the two cultures gave him insight in different universes of flavours.

At a time when most neighbouring restaurants are shuttered (or crippled by the ban on alcohol sales), Blattman says he wants to “give something back to the community which has given me so much.”

Phuket chef hands out over 2,000 free meals | News by The Thaiger

Although the crisis means Blattman must temporarily close the restaurant (again) at the end of May, he intends to go on giving back to the community.

“Our commitment to our community is still here, and we will keep our efforts up, but in a different way: dry food, going to workers’ camps, going upcountry… be assured that every penny donated will reach people in need. We are keeping a strict accounting on all our expenses and any donor is welcome to check it.”

Those wishing to support Dedos’s charitable efforts may visit its Facebook page.

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