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Fishery industry invites supply-chain inspection

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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– Thailand news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Fishery industry invites supply-chain inspection
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The Thai fishery industry yesterday invited non-governmental organisations and private firms, as well as international government agencies, to inspect their plants and supply chains, insisting that the industry has strongly opposed forced labour.

“We dare to challenge NGOs and are willing to invite our customers to audit our factories and reveal information about employment,” said Poj Aramwattananont, chairman of the Thai Fishery Producers Coalition, representing eight seafood and fisheries associations.

He said that while it was true some wrongdoing had occurred in the past, “we can insist that we are strongly working on good labour practices and comply with international regulations”.

In response to the US State Department’s decision downgrade Thailand to Tier 3 for the worst human trafficking in its 2014 “Trafficking in Persons” (TIP) report, the Thai producers coalition has stressed its position that child and forced labour will not be tolerated.

The industry pledged full cooperation with Thai authorities to fight human trafficking.

The coalition emphasised that the US decision to downgrade Thailand was unfair. The Thai industry wants the truth to be told – that there is no slavery involved in the shrimp supply chain.

It said it had no interest in taking legal action against the industry’s accusers or quarrelling, would continue to prove that it has stringently screened out forced or child labour.

Trading partners will continue to do business with Thailand, Poj said. Costco, a leading US superstore, is scheduled to visit the Kingdom next month to study the labour system and collect information to show its customers that workers are well treated by its Thai suppliers in accordance with the company’s requirements and international standards.

The seafood industry has worked on labour issues since 2006. Actually, Thailand should be upgraded to Tier 2 – it was on a watch list before the latest TIP report – but for reasons of its own, the US decided to downgrade Thailand unfairly, he added.

Panisuan Jamnarnwej, president emeritus of the Thai Frozen Foods Association (TFFA), said Thailand would make an effort to create better understanding among the public, as the TIP report and a newspaper article had created a bad reputation for the Thai industry.

The industry will also work closely with its members and government agencies, as well as international labour task forces, to punish any enterprise that breaches labour laws.

It has set up a hotline for workers facing unfair practices by employers.

All shrimp exporters are members of the TFFA, and the association has mandatory programmes such as good manufacturing processes and HACCP (hazard analysis and critical control points) for heath and sanitation purposes. A good labour practice programme from the Labour Ministry and Fisheries Department is being implemented with the International Labour Organisation as adviser and co-facilitator.

The TFFA will also try to tighten cooperation with the ILO through a range of activities from joining training programmes and monitoring practices to sending reports to the organisation, which is an agency of the United Nations.

Concerning the issue of child and forced labour, which the US will also review for a possible TIP revision this September, the TFFA has worked with local and national authorities to improve and monitor workplaces along the supply chain. Any member found violating the code of ethics will be expelled, which means it cannot export any longer.

Somsak Paneetatyasai, president of the Thai Shrimp Association, said Thai shrimp exported to the US must be farm-raised, so no forced labour is involved. Aquaculture is much more efficient than capturing from the wild, resulting in lower costs both in monetary terms and resource consumption.

Shrimp farmers provide full supply-chain traceability. Farm operations are also audited for good aquaculture practices, mainly out of environmental concerns.

Boontham Aramsiriwat, secretary-general of the Thai Feed Mill Association, said not more than 350,000 tonnes of shrimp feed was annually sold to farmers. This translates to 100,000 tonnes of fishmeal needed as ingredients along with soybean meal.

The feed-meal producers buy fishmeal from traceable producers. By nature, feed-mill operations are not labour-intensive, relying instead on heavy machinery.

Sanguansak Akaravarinechai, president of the Thai Fishmeal Producers Association, said materials going into fishmeal production came from fish-processing plants as well as from local catches. Although 80 per cent of workers in the fishmeal industry are aliens, they are legally registered and treated by employers as well as Thai workers.

Chanintr Chalisarapong, president of the Thai Tuna Industry Association, said Thailand was one of the major suppliers of tuna to the US. He is confident in the industry’s labour practices.

The US will not sanction Thailand over the labour issue and will continue to trade and cooperate with the Kingdom, he believes.

Ajva Taulananda, vice chairman of CP Group, said: “The US action to downgrade Thailand to Tier 3 will have a minimal effect as it only affects some parts of the fishing industry. The Charoen Pokphand Group wants to support any measures against any wrongdoings that concern the industry.”

US President Barack Obama has 90 days to consider whether to proceed with any sanctions against Thailand or let the country correct the problems in question.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Thailand

The man who wrote the bad reviews for Koh Chang’s Sea View Resort has a criminal record

The Thaiger

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The man who wrote the bad reviews for Koh Chang’s Sea View Resort has a criminal record | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Koh Chang's Sea View Resort - Bookings.com

In the ongoing stoush between the American, Wesley Barnes, and Koh Chang’s Sea View Resort, the story is now reaching way beyond Thailand’s borders, being reported in mainstream media around the world. Much of the media discussion has focused on whether it is appropriate to be able to sue people over a bad review with criminal defamation.

Defamation is a criminal offence in Thailand, and carries a maximum sentence of 2 years in prison, along with a 200,000 baht fine.

Now it’s come to light that Mr Barnes has been of interest to the US judicial system in the past, being accused of firing a weapon at a bar in Jackson County, Missouri (below).

But let’s get up to speed…

“A US man is facing up to two years in jail in Thailand after posting negative reviews of a hotel he stayed in. He was sued by the resort under the country’s strict anti-defamation laws.” – BBC

“An American man is facing two years in prison in Thailand after posting negative online reviews of a hotel resort.” – The Guardian

Wesley Barnes, who has been working in Thailand, posted a number of negative reviews on different platforms, including Trip Advisor, allegedly accusing the resort of “modern day slavery”, amongst other complaints. He stayed at the resort in June this year.

But the Sea View Resort, claims his criticism was “harsh”, untrue and damaging to the hotel’s reputation.

“The owner filed a complaint that the defendant had posted unfair reviews on his hotel on the TripAdvisor website.” – AFP

“Wesley Gene Barnes is an American citizen who worked as a teacher in Thailand while the world was battling against the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. He made headlines after posting a negative review of a resort in the Southeast Asian country.” – Conan Daily

The incident started with an argument over Mr Barnes bringing his own bottle of alcohol while dining in the resort’s restaurant. Arguments over the corkage fee “caused a commotion”, later sorted out by an on-duty manager. Since his stay at the resort earlier this year Mr Barnes has posted negative reviews of the property. Then the hotel sued him for defamation.

Mr Barnes was detained and says he spent two nights in prison before he was released on bail.

But this isn’t the first time Mr Barnes has come to the attention of police.

In the US there was an incident which is now public record. There was an official police complaint against 34 year old Wesley G. Barnes, signed off by JEAN PETERS BAKER, the Prosecuting Attorney Jackson County, Missouri, in October 2017.

The man who wrote the bad reviews for Koh Chang's Sea View Resort has a criminal record | News by The Thaiger

You can read the full complaint HERE.

A Kansas City man accused of firing a weapon near Waldo Bar and later at a convenience store told people he was a federal agent prior to the initial incident, prosecutors said.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker charged Wesley G. Barnes, 34, with two counts of unlawful use of a weapon and two counts of armed criminal action.

Barnes is accused of firing shots from a gun after leaving Waldo Bar about 1 a.m. Wednesday. The bar is near 75th Street and Wornall Road.

Read the rest of the story from The Kansas City Star HERE.

The man who wrote the bad reviews for Koh Chang's Sea View Resort has a criminal record | News by The Thaiger

For its part, the Sea View Resort says that, following the reviews, they had received cancellations and inquiries about employee treatment. The management claims that it had told Mr Barnes repeatedly they “would not go ahead with pressing charges if he stopped writing new false reviews”.

“Despite our multiple efforts to contact him to resolve the matter in an amicable way for well over a month, he chose to ignore us completely. He only replied to us when he had been notified of our complaint by the authorities,” according to the BBC story.

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Economy

Cabinet approves co-payment of 3,000 baht each for 10 million consumers

Maya Taylor

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Cabinet approves co-payment of 3,000 baht each for 10 million consumers | The Thaiger
PHOTO: www.bitcoretech.com

In its latest round of direct economic stimulus, the Thai government is to offer a co-payment of 3,000 baht each to 10 million Thai citizens for a period of 3 months. The scheme is expected to kick off on October 23 and run up the end of the year, with the co-payment subsidising half the cost of purchases, but excluding alcohol, tobacco, or the government’s bi-monthly lottery. There will be a maximum daily co-payment of 150 baht, and 3,000 baht per person in total.

Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri says Thai citizens over the age of 18 can sign up for the scheme from October 16. The subsidy will be transferred to consumers’ electronic wallets. Anucha says the scheme will cost around 30 billion baht and will provide a much-needed boost to small businesses. Businesses interested in participating can register from tomorrow.

The Bangkok Post reports that Cabinet have also approved the addition of an extra 1,500 baht to the monthly living allowance for nearly 14 million citizens holding state welfare cards. Recipients will get the 1,500 baht in 3 installments of 500 baht between October and December.

The government also plans to compensate businesses that hire new graduates, through the introduction of a co-payment plan. Companies hiring students who work part-time and are registered in the social security system, will receive help from the government. This is a change from the previous stipulation that only graduates not registered in the social security scheme could participate in the program.

Under the employment subsidy program, the government will pay 50% of graduates’ salaries for one year, beginning next month. Around 260,000 new graduates are expected to be included in the programme, which will be financed from the government’s 400 billion baht economic recovery fund.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Visa amnesty runs to October 31 | Complete Thailand Travel Guide (September 2020)

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Visa amnesty runs to October 31 | Complete Thailand Travel Guide (September 2020) | The Thaiger

Latest update – September 29. The Thaiger updates information about travelling to and re-entering Thailand. Depending on where you’re coming from, your purpose for visiting Thailand and your country’s own Covid-19 travel restrictions, the situation is changing daily. If you are overseas and wish to come to Thailand your FIRST port of call must be the Royal Thai Embassy in your country before you make any bookings.

A new visa amnesty now runs until the end of October

A new visa amnesty was announced by the Thai PM and the CCSA yesterday afternoon. Foreigners who recently paid 1,900 baht for a 30 day visa extension (before September 26) are now clear to stay in Thailand until November 30 at no extra cost, but those foreigners need to report to immigration to get their visa stamp corrected.

At this stage, although announced and approved by the CCSA and the Thai PM, the new amnesty has not been entered into the Royal Gazette but is expected to be in the next 24 hours.

The announcement follows a decision confirmed late yesterday by the CCSA to issue another grace period for foreigners stranded in Thailand, until October 31. Under the new regulation, 60 day visa extensions will be issued to those who are unable to travel back to their home country. The reasons could be lack of flights, problems with Covid in their home country, medical reasons or something else that prevent you from leaving the country.

Those who received a 30 day extension will need to visit their local immigration office and get the correct stamp that will indicate the new expiration date in their passport, according to a story in The Phuket News. In the past, foreigners have needed to present a letter from their country’s embassy requesting an extension, but Immigration Bureau Deputy Commissioner Pornchai Kuntee says “letters from embassies may not be needed.”

Tell us about the new long stay ‘special tourist visa’, the STV.

Here are the strict basic requirements of the new STV…

• Foreign visitors will be required to have a Covid-19 test taken 72 hours before, departure

• They will have to buy Covid-19 health insurance

• Sign a letter of consent agreeing to comply with the Thai government’s Covid-19 measures

• Will be for a minimum 90 days (there have been some reports of a minimum 30 days), renewable twice, to a total of 20 days

• The visa will be limited to people from ‘low-risk’ countries although that list has not been announced

• Successful applicants will have to complete a 14 day mandatory quarantine at a state-registered quarantine/hotel

• STV travellers must travel by charter plane and every flight carrying them must receive permission from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or CCSA

The new 90 day special tourist visa would be able to be extended twice, for 90 days each time. So, a total of 270 days (around 9 months). It was also announced that travellers would have to arrive on charter flights only, further pushing up the price of potential travel back to Thailand.

“Visitors can arrive for tourism or health services, and they can stay at alternative state quarantine facilities, specific areas or at hospitals that function as quarantine facilities. Our public health system is amongst the best in the world and people can have confidence in it.”

The new ‘STV’ (Special Tourist Visa) which will cost 2,000 baht and will last for 90 days each. The new visa regulation will be in effect until September 30, 2021 and may be extended beyond that time.

The government noted that it doesn’t have the ability to fully re-open to tourism at the moment as they have to be able to process incoming visitors and find approved locations for them to serve their 14 day quarantine.”The target is to welcome 100-300 visitors a week, or up to 1,200 people a month, and generate income of about 1 billion baht a month.”

Thai officials have also said they will only accept tourists from “low risk” countries, without specifying what those countries are.

On Friday, September 18, a director at the Department of Disease Control, said that foreign tourists will have to present proof of a negative Covid-19 test no more than 72 hours prior to travel.

The Thaiger will update the details of the new long stay tourist visa as soon as the become available.

The Special Tourist Visa will be formerly approved Monday. Read more HERE.

How is Thailand doing compared to the rest of the world with it’s re-opening to tourists?

The UN World Tourism Organisation has published its latest update on the state of the world’s re-openings in the Covid-era. 53% of the world’s tourist destinations have now started easing travel restrictions government’s imposed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The UNWTO reports acknowledges that many destinations “remain cautious” and some are even re-closing borders and tightening up restrictions again.

It’s the 7th edition of the “Covid-19 Related Travel Restrictions: A Global Review for Tourism”and identifies an ongoing global trend to gradually restart the world’s tourism machine. The report analyses restrictions by governments up to September 1. The research covers a total of 115 destinations (53% of all destinations worldwide) have now eased their travel restrictions – that’s an increase of 28 since 19 July. Of these, two have lifted all restrictions, while the remaining 113 continue to have certain restrictive measures in place.

• Another stand-out stat was that in advanced economies, 79% of tourism destinations had already started easing restrictions. In emerging economies, less than half, just 47% of destinations, have started the process.

• 64% of those destinations which have eased have a “high or medium dependence” on airlines to deliver international tourists to their location. Island destinations are particularly at risk at this time as the air lift is critical to their tourist success.

• 43% of all worldwide destinations continue to have their borders completely closed to all tourism, of which 27 destinations have had their borders “completely closed” for at least 7 months.

• Half of all destinations in the survey, with borders completely closed to tourism, are listed as being among the “World’s Most Vulnerable Countries”. They include 10 Small Island Developing States, one Least Developed Country and three Land-Locked Developing Countries.

Should I use a visa agent to extend my visa?

There are plenty of ads being posted at this time offering magic extensions to visas and opportunities to stay in Thailand after September 26. Please be aware that some of these alleged visa agents are scams. There are also plenty of good visa agents who will be able to provide you with advice and solutions, at a cost, allowing you to remain in the country.

If you do wish to contact a visa agent at this time make sure you get a referral from a friend, visit their office in person or ask plenty of questions and check their bonafides. Do not start sending money to accounts until you have seen some paperwork or evidence that they are able to provide you with a legal and professional service. Caveat emptor!

I had a retirement visa and have lived in Thailand for many years. When can I return?

Foreigners with permanent residences who have been stranded overseas for the past 6 months, and long-term foreign residents (retirement visa), can now re-enter Thailand.

Both groups still have to undergo the mandatory state-controlled 14 day quarantine.

If you believe you fall into either of these categories, contact your local Thai Embassy or consulate to discuss your circumstances BEFORE you purchase a ticket or make any other arrangements.

Is it safe in Thailand at the moment?

Yes. No less safe than usual and certainly there has been no civil unrest that would make you ponder your personal safety beyond the usual precautions you would take anywhere in the world. The current student protests are fairly limited and are publicised ahead of time so you can avoid those situations. Whilst there has been some outbursts against foreigners from a Thai politician and a few stressed-out locals, the situation for foreigners remains safe and secure at this time.

What happened to the Phuket Model?

It was a non-starter after the government encountered resistance from some in Phuket. It was also not well received by travellers and many in the local hospitality industry.

At this stage, a model to allow limited tourists to re-enter the country, on extended tourist visas, with some restrictions, is being hammered out by the CCSA in conjunction with the Public Health Department, TAT and Ministry of Sports and Tourism. It’s called the Special Tourist Visa and is aimed at high-wealth tourists with plenty of time, as the visa has a minimum 90 day stay requirement.

Are there any Facebook pages where I can share my story about wanting to come back to Thailand?

The ‘Love Is Not Tourism Thailand’ Facebook page, which includes families torn apart by the pandemic, is calling on the Thai government to help reunite their families.

“We’re asking the government to issue visas or allow entry for family members and lovers to reunite with each other for humanitarian reasons. Evidence such as a passport with an entry stamp into Thailand, photos, and text messages should be able to verify their unions.”

I have been stranded in Thailand since April. Now I have run out of money and don’t know what to do.

This is a really difficult situation and you’d be well advised to contact your friends and family, and advise them of your predicament. Also, you MUST contact your country’s embassy or consulate to alert them of the situation. They will at least have information about repatriating you to your home country or perhaps other options that may be available.

Just hoping your situation is going to improve won’t work. Get as much information as you can about your options. And hopefully your family or friends can send you some funds to tide you over during this crazy time. Chock dee krub!

The airlines are selling tickets to fly to Thailand now. Should I buy one?

No. Don’t buy a ticket for a flight to Thailand until you have ALL the paperwork required, have discussed your trip with your local embassy and you have been approved for travel. Why the airlines keep selling tickets, for flights that will be cancelled, is a mystery.

There are currently no plans to open Thailand’s borders for international tourism beyond proposals for a limited opening for tourism into Phuket called the Phuket Model. It was proposed to start in October but no decisions have been made.

Which leads us to the next question….

When will Thailand open its borders for international tourism?

Both the Civil Aviation Authority and a Deputy Governor from the TAT have stated that it is unlikely that the borders will be reopened for general tourism until 2021. But there is now the new Special Tourist Visa which allows tourists to visit for 90 days at a time (extendable twice for a total of 270 days), at a cost of 2,000 baht per application or extension. There are still quite draconian restrictions on the new visa, including the 14 day mandatory quarantine and lots of paperwork. Your starting point would be to contact your Royal Thai Embassy in your country.

Would a Thailand Elite Visa solve my problems?

Yes and no. The Elite Visa program is an excellent and convenient means of staying in Thailand with few problems, allowing you to avoid visits to Immigration and most of the paperwork. But it’s an expensive up-front costs and, for now, there is a 3-4 month waiting period to process new applications.

At this time, there is also a limit on the number of people, on various visas, they are allowing to re-enter Thailand each day. But if you have the cash, it’s definitely an option as people on the Thailand Elite Visa are currently allowed to re-enter the Kingdom.

Our flight has a transit stop in Thailand. Can we get off the plane and spend a day in Bangkok?

No. At this time all transits require passengers to remain on the plane. There may be some situations where they deplane passengers but you will be restricted to a section of the airport.

Can I get a job, get a new visa and stay in Thailand?

Maybe, possibly. Jobs for foreigners are thin on the ground at the moment. Outside of teaching English (there will always be jobs for English teachers in Thailand), most companies are cutting staff right now, rather than employing. You would need to secure a letter of offer from your new employer and visit you local immigration office to discuss the matter urgently, before September 26.

Can I fly back to my country and get a new Non B visa, and then return to Thailand?

In theory, yes. But it will take some good planning and a dose of luck for the plan to be successful. Theo did it… HERE’s the link to his story. You will certainly need to do a 14 day quarantine upon your return and the capricious nature of various embassy and immigration officials could make the many steps to get all the paperwork a nightmare.

What about other tropical holiday spots?

Island economies, dependent on tourism – from Bali in Indonesia, to Hawaii in the US – grapple with the pandemic, which has brought global travel to a virtual halt. World aviation has dropped by 97% (last month compared year-on-year). Re-opening to tourists has led to the resurgence of infection in some places like the Caribbean island of Aruba, and governments are fearful of striking the wrong balance between public health and economic reality. Even The Maldives, which confidently re-opened for tourism, has had a recent surge of new cases and forcing the government to rethink its plans.

Ibiza and the other popular Spanish party islands, are also devastated by the current Covid situation.

Can I travel to Thailand for medical Tourism?

Yes. Even though Thailand’s borders are still closed to most travel, including tourism, there are some select groups being allowed back into the Kingdom. Medical tourists are one of those groups but, for most countries, ONLY for urgent or emergency medical matters. Foreign medical tourists are now permitted to apply to come to Thailand for medical treatment with strict disease control measures being put in place.

BUT, and there’s always a ‘but’ at the moment, some countries will not permit its citizens to travel outside of their home countries, even for medical emergencies. In all cases, you would need to consult your local Royal Thai Embassy to find out if you are eligible, before you book a flight or sing a contract with a medical provider in Thailand.

Under the CCSA regulations, foreign medical and wellness tourists have to arrive by air to ensure effective disease control, not via land border checkpoints at this stage.

“Those seeking cosmetic surgery and infertility treatments will be allowed to enter the country. Those seeking Covid-19 treatment are barred.”

If you’d like to investigate coming to Thailand at this time, go to MyMediTravel to browse procedures and check out your options.

Spokesperson Dr. Taweesilp Visanuyothin says the visitors must have an appointment letter from a doctor in Thailand and entry certificates issued by Thai embassies across the globe. People wanting to visit Thailand for medical procedures at this time will need to contact the Thai Embassy in their country to organise the visa and paperwork. Thailand’s major hospitals will provide potential candidates with an appointment letter.

They will also need to produce proof that they tested negative for Covid-19 before their arrival. Once in Thailand they will be tested again and will required to stay at the medical facility for at least 14 days, during which they will be able to start their chosen treatments.

The CCSA says that medical procedures will only be allowed for foreigners at hospitals that have been registered to provide the treatments and have proven their ability to contain any potential outbreak. Potential patients will only be allowed to bring a total of 3 family members or caretakers during their visit to Thailand. Caretakers will have to go through the same screening procedures as the patient.

Embassies and participating hospitals will be able to provide more information about procedures, facilities, paperwork requirements and arrival options.

Again, MAKE SURE you consult the Royal Thai Embassy in your home country before proceeding with any medical tourism pans.

Travel advice from the UK government

From 4 July, Thailand is exempt from the FCO advice against all non-essential international travel. This is based on the current assessment of COVID-19 risks.

However, the requirement to self-isolate on return to the UK from Thailand remains in place. See guidance on entering or returning to the UK.

The following advice within Thailand remains in place. The FCO advise against all but essential travel to areas within the provinces on the Thailand-Malaysia border, including…

  • Pattani
  • Yala
  • Narathiwat
  • Southern Songkhla province. This does not include areas north of and including the A43 road between Hat Yai and Sakom, and areas north-west of and including the train line which runs between Hat Yai and Pedang Besar.

Travel to Thailand is subject to entry restrictions.

  • At present only certain categories of foreign nationals are permitted to enter or transit Thailand.
  • If you’re eligible to enter, you will be subject to a 14-day state quarantine at a Thai government-designated facility at your own expense. If suspected of carrying Covid-19, you may be denied entry into the country
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