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Saudi teenager allowed to stay in Thailand, for now

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Saudi teenager allowed to stay in Thailand, for now | The Thaiger

A Saudi teenager who flew to Thailand to escape her family in Kuwait will be allowed to stay in the country for now.

Thai officials ended up in diplomatic hot water yesterday after government officials initially said they planned to deport a Saudi teenager who was stopped in Bangkok, en route to Australia to seek asylum, drawing objections from the international community, netizens  and rights advocates.

Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan spoke about the matter insisted that 18 year old Rahaf Mohanned al-Qunun had to be sent back to her family despite her claims that they had abused her and would kill her when she returned.

Immigration chief Surachate Hakparn initially agreed but later said at a press conference that al-Qunun would not be forcibly deported after all.

“If deporting her would result in her death, we definitely wouldn’t want to do that.”

Al-Qunun was detained on Saturday during transit at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Surachate claiming she had no visa to enter Thailand. Al-Qunan told rights groups and reporters that a representative of the Saudi embassy in Bangkok had intercepted her at the airport and seized her passport.

The teenager said she wanted to avoid a forced marriage arranged by her family, whom she accused of physical and psychological abuse. She departed from Kuwait, bound for Australia, while the family were travelling.

She said she was “100 per cent sure” her family would kill her if she was sent back.

The Nation reports that Thai-Saudi relations have been strained ever since a major ruction over a Thai migrant worker’s theft of a diamond from the Saudi royal palace and the assassinations of Saudi diplomats in Bangkok in 1989-1990. Several attempts have since been made to normalise relations, none successful.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Busadee Santipitaks said the ministry had no advance notice of plans to turn back al-Qunun.

“The case is under the jurisdiction of the Immigration Bureau under the 1979 Immigration Act,” she said. “This action was taken according to the law and related regulations.”

Having barricaded herself in a hotel room at the airport, al-Qunun has been keeping followers updated about her situation via tweets, videos and interviews with foreign media outlets. The Twitter account, which appears to be managed by more than one person, has issued appeals to foreign diplomats for help, as well as to US President Donald Trump.

In one video posted last night from her hotel room, she refused to leave her room until she could meet with representatives of the UN High Commission for Refugees. Photos tweeted showed a mattress jammed up against the room’s main door, blocking entrance.

UNHCR spokesperson Caroline Gluck told The Nation that access had been granted to the agency to assess al-Qunun’s need for its protection. After the two hour meeting, the teenager left the airport hotel under the care of UN. She was allowed to stay in Thailand for five days while the UN was considering her asylum request, said immigration chief Surachate.

The agency maintains that refugees and asylum seekers – whether confirmed to be in need of its protection or claiming to need it – cannot legally be returned to their countries of origin, the UNHRC said in a statement, citing the principle of “non-refoulement”.

The principle prevents states from expelling or returning persons to a territory where their life or freedom would be threatened. It is enshrined in treaty obligations to which Thailand is a signatory.

Saudi teenager allowed to stay in Thailand, for now | News by The Thaiger Saudi teenager allowed to stay in Thailand, for now | News by The Thaiger

SOURCES: The Nation, CNN



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UN election monitors spread across Bangkok and beyond

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UN election monitors spread across Bangkok and beyond | The Thaiger

PHOTOS: The Nation

Foreign observers representing the United Nations have fanned out across the capital and its outskirts today to monitor the long-delayed election. Today’s national election, the first since 2011, is also the first since the military-backed NCPO seized power in May 2014.

Four four-member teams wearing pale-blue vests were assigned to polling stations in Bangkok, Nonthaburi and Pathum Thani to monitor the electoral process, according to a UN official.

The EC briefed representatives of election commissions from Australia, Bhutan, Cambodia, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Indonesia, Philippines, South Korea, East Timor, and Vietnam at the Rama Gardens Hotel in Bangkok at 9.45am yesterday morning.

Representatives of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance also attended yesterday’s session.

EC secretary general Jarungwit Phumma told the representatives that the EC welcomed them to observe tomorrow’s election.

Jarungwit says the EC allowed the representative to monitor the election to show that the polls would be transparent, clean and fair so that the international community would have confidence in the next government.

The teams are watching for any issues that might occur as citizens freely exercise their democratic rights in today’s poll. Polls close at 5pm today around the nation and the alcohol ban extends through to 6pm tonight.

UN election monitors spread across Bangkok and beyond | News by The Thaiger

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Summer storms on the way for north, north-east

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Summer storms on the way for north, north-east | The Thaiger

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People living in the north of Thailand are being warned to brace themselves for some summer thunderstorms until Wednesday. The Meteorological Department issued an alert today saying the storms will be caused by a high-pressure system from China that will interact with the hot weather over upper Thailand.

Outbreaks of summer thunderstorms will be likely from today to March 27. Thundershowers, gusty winds and hail are possible first in the Northeast and the East then the Central, and the North region.

Are you affected?

March 23-24

North: Kamphaengphet, Phitsanulok, Phichit and Phetchabun.

Northeast: Nong Bua Lamphu, Sakon Nakhon, Nakhon Phanom, Udon Thani, Buri Ram, Surin, Si Sa Ket and Ubon Ratchathani.

Central: Nakhon Sawan, Chai Nat, Lop Buri and Saraburi.East: Nakhon Nayok, Prachin Buri, Sa Kaeo and Chachoengsao.

March 25-27

North: Kamphaengphet, Phitsanulok, Phichit and Phetchabun.

Northeast: Nong Bua Lamphu, Udon Thani, Khon Kaen, Loei, Chaiyaphum, Nakhon Ratchasima, Buri Ram, Surin, Si Sa Ket and Ubon Ratchathani.

Central: Uthai Thani, Nakhon Sawan, Chai Nat, Lop Buri, Saraburi and Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya including Bangkok and its vicinity.

East: Nakhon Nayok, Prachin Buri, Sa Kaeo and Chachoengsoa.

SOURCE: The Nation

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Top Five things to consider if you’re buying a condo in Thailand

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Top Five things to consider if you’re buying a condo in Thailand | The Thaiger

Not quite a Top Ten but some good straight-talking about buying condominiums in Thailand from Desmond Hughes from Hughes Krupica

One of the most commonly read or spoken summary of foreign ownership of property in Thailand is along the lines of

“Foreigners can buy a foreign freehold condominium in their name”.

At this sentence, many foreign investors switch off, and assume that the rest of the detail provided by the author may be legal mumbo jumbo or a thinly veiled attempt to win their business.

In fact, there is quite a lot you should know about Thai condominiums, before you start property hunting. As my clients don’t generally spend their time reading legal journals and legislation unless they have to, I have set out a mixture of legal and practical matters below without much distinction:

1. Only 49% of the Registrable Area of a condominium can be sold to foreigners.

In Bangkok, this is not likely to have any impact on you. Most of the buyers and owners of condominiums in Bangkok are Thai nationals. Even in condominiums popular with foreigners, it is an uncommon phenomena that foreigners would ever outnumber Thais as owners in a building. You might ask why the rule even exists, but there is a fear and protectionism in many Asian countries, not just Thailand, to try and keep foreigners ‘controlled’ through numbers and perecentages.

In other places – Phuket; Pattaya; Koh Samui; Chiang Mai and Hua Hin particularly you should apply caution to ensuring that the correct ‘quota’ of foreign units is available to be sold to you on a freehold basis.

2. Banks often advertise they will give finance, even potentially to foreigners, but in the end – don’t

I speak from personal experience and from that of my clients. For my first condo investment in Bangkok, I had to take out a loan with HSBC which was then taken over by a Thai bank. My loan had to be in foreign currency, because in order to buy a foreign freehold condominium – you have to send foreign currency into Thailand from overseas to generate ‘foreign exchange transaction forms’ to register the title to a foreigner at the land office. This means a lot of hoops for a bank to jump through simply to provide a mortgage. Foreigners are also viewed as flight risks by Thai banks and they do not wish to spend their time chasing foreign assets. This all means that a very high percentage of the foreign buyer market is cash based, which is good for the stability of that part of the condo market.

If you are tempted to try and take out finance applications to banks, be aware that the banks are looking for you to have some business in Thailand; perhaps to be married to a Thai national who preferable from the bank’s perspective will have some degree of wealth for self-support; and that you have other assets in Thailand with a history of using and paying off credit such as credit cards.

3. There is an oversupply of condominiums in Bangkok at the moment and rental yields are traditionally low in terms of % compared to more expensive Asian neighbors – Hong Kong and Singapore, and further afield

A condo in a prime rentable area at a high investment price can remain rentable due to its extremely useful location and amenities. If such condo has a 24 hour supermarket in the basement of the retail area and dozens of restaurants, as a condo building I am thinking of does have such amenities, then it will remain rentable for some time if the property is maintained. However, another condo at the end of the same ‘Soi’ and post building and delivery could remain unrented after many months and even if the rent is cut to 50% of the market price. Don’t just take my word for the state of the market for condo rentals in Bangkok, ask the agents.

In addition to this, the authorities are taking a closer eye at tax declarations and ‘cracking down’ on undeclared taxes – not just personal income tax, but the ‘business tax’ of 12.5% for renting units out. This all adds to the costs of investing and renting in a condo, and you must calculate this into your budget and forecasts to avoid living in fantasy land about dream returns.

3. You won’t have any say in how the condominium is managed

Unless you buy up over half of the voting rights attached to units in the entire building, you will be a minority voice on issues like the raising of the common area fees; use of the ‘sinking fund’ – the fund to make capital repairs, changes to the rules and regulations and general maintenance decisions, even of some significance. Don’t imagine standing up at an co-owners meeting voicing your opinions and somehow making headway in ‘changing’ the direction of the management of a building. The way in which a building is managed boils down to how the developer has structured ownership, whether the developer retains many units and a large % of the voting rights or not, and whether the developer plans to self-manage or outsource management of the asset to a reputable or not-so-reputable management company.

If you don’t check the management plan then I can reference lots of analogous situations where you would take more care – if you buy a car, you should think if there are any decent repair centres nearby and at a reasonable price – Ferraris in Phuket aren’t currently easy to maintain, I would imagine, as a non-Ferrari owner and observer of the state and condition of the roads in that Province. You also wouldn’t, I hope, buy a smart phone without knowing you could have the phone service, fixed and various parts replaced on reasonably short notice. As a property is a far higher value of investment, a lot of investigation into the management plan is necessary.

4. Don’t Believe the Hype – It’s a Sequel

False Media, we don’t need it do we? If you see a glossy marketing brochure and are told that the developer ‘has to deliver on its promises by law’ – be wary. To take one example, I bought a condo under which a ‘private wine cellar area with personal secure wine bottle storage space’ would be provided to every buyer. Amazingly, without any shame at all, the famous developer constructed an unchilled cheap wooden cabinet with glass doors, no locks next to 4 sofa chairs in the open space corridor between a swimming pool and the gym. If you wanted to fry an egg on the ‘wine cabinet’ then that was highly likely to have been possible.

These kind of things are not all ‘horror stories’ – I actually got a decent condo notwithstanding the missing items. However, you will often have to compromise when in more highly regulated and supervised jurisdictions, you would not. Compromise is a very common work in Thai society and it applies to business and consumer purchases too.

5. Set up your ownership for easy re-sale

If you are buying a condo as a ‘foreigner’ and paying cash, then you can buy your condo through a foreign company, and sell the company later. This is only worth doing if the cost of setting up and maintaining the foreign company is reasonable and the company you set up is ‘saleable’ and attractive to others. You should not carry out this kind of structuring to ‘avoid tax’. However, you can set up this kind of structure, pay tax on the purchase, and subsequently deal with your company as you see fit, provided a buyer is willing to buy it. If such a company receives rental income, then even if it is foreign it is till liable to taxes as the use of the ‘immoveable property’ for generating revenue isn’t deemed to be ‘outside’ of Thailand, and that applies even if the company tries to contract for and receive the rent outside of Thailand.

Desmond Hughes has operated and owned 2 law firms in Asia in 14 years spanning Thailand; Vietnam; Indonesia with clients in all of Asia and other markets investing inwards into the region with his existing firm Hughes Krupica possessing a large market shares in its fields of expertise. 

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