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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Stolen Austrian passport used by Iranian teenage migrant

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Stolen Austrian passport used by Iranian teenage migrant | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH– Thailand news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

PHUKET: One of the two passengers who boarded the missing Malaysia Airlines plane Flight MH370 on stolen passports was an Iranian man seeking to relocate to Germany, Malaysian police said Tuesday.

Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad, 19, was travelling on an Austrian passport earlier declared stolen in Thailand, police Inspector General Khalid Abu Bakar said.

Based on consultation with foreign intelligence counterparts, he did not appear to be a member of any terrorist organisation, and was apparently trying to migrate to Germany, Khalid said.

Interpol confirmed on Sunday that at least two passengers on the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing used passports stolen in Thailand within the last two years leading to speculation that the plane had been attacked, reported Reuters.

Thai police and foreign police investigators have been questioning two travel agents in the resort city of Pattaya, where the tickets were bought for the two men who boarded the flight using the stolen passports.

“We haven’t ruled it out but the weight of evidence we’re getting swings against the idea that these men are or were involved in terrorism,” Pattaya chief of police Supachai Puikaewcome told Reuters on Tuesday.

Both of the tickets, bought for the travellers by two Iranians, were for travel on from Beijing to Europe at the cheapest price, Supachai said.

“Judging by the ticket booking alone, if it was terrorism they would have specified the route and the plane they wanted to take. Instead, they asked for the most cost-effective ticket and did not specify the route or the airline.”

Police were hoping to question one of the Iranians who had paid for the tickets in cash. Supachai identified him only as Hasem and said he was known to be in Pattaya.

A second Iranian, who Supachai identified as Kazem Ali, had booked the tickets by telephone with a Pattaya travel agent. Ali was believed to be in Iran.

“We’re looking into all angles including the possibility that these men were involved in human smuggling as Mr Ali had a relationship with the travel agency and had booked through them previously, very possibly for Iranian nationals,” Supachai said.

Police on the Thai holiday island of Phuket said both of the passports had been stolen there. An Italian man reported his passport stolen last year while the other passport, which belonged to an Austrian man, was reported stolen in 2012, an immigration police officer said

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Pattaya

“Pattaya Model” to focus on Special Tourist Visa visitors from China and Russia

Caitlin Ashworth

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“Pattaya Model” to focus on Special Tourist Visa visitors from China and Russia | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Unsplash: Gerrie van der Walt

Pattaya wants to cash in on the new Special Tourist Visa scheme and local officials plan to introduce the “Pattaya Model” to help boost the local economy after it took at beating from the lack of international tourists due to the pandemic. They’ll focus on drawing in Chinese and Russian tourists on the new long stay visa, according to Pattaya Mayor Sonthaya Khunpluem.

“Last year, there were 3 million Chinese tourists visiting Pattaya, followed by Russian tourists with 1.1 million. The CCSA is targeting these two groups to visit the country under the Covid-19 health measures to boost the local economy.”

These travellers would be from cities in Russia and China that are considered to be at a low risk for spreading the coronavirus, the mayor says. He mentioned St. Petersburg in Russia and Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenzhen in China.

Along with accommodating tourists under the Special Tourist Visa, the mayor says they are planning for other travellers that are approved by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration.

The city is in the process of forming a committee to plan the Pattaya Model. The committee would include local officials as well as representatives from the tourism sector like Eastern Thai Hotels Association and the Chon Buri Tourist Attraction Association.

“Meanwhile, we are following up with the government on when U-Tapao airport will be open to accommodate STV tourists since it is fully prepared to support direct flights and to strictly abide by public health measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.”

SOURCE: Pattaya News

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Pattaya

Pattaya – fighting to survive its Covid crisis

The Thaiger

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Pattaya – fighting to survive its Covid crisis | The Thaiger

Pattaya, like some of Thailand’s other former tourist hotspots, is facing some critical challenges. Hundreds of thousands of workers have left the city because there’s simply no work and up to 50% of the city’s shops are closed, some never to re-open. The Thaiger filmed most of this video on a long weekend at the end of October, the busiest Pattaya had been in 7 months.

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As Thailand struggles along without the benefit of its usual tourist traffic, four key former tourist magnets are facing particular hardships. Phuket, Koh Samui, Chiang Mai… and Pattaya. Whilst there are patches of business activity, just about everything connected directly with the city’s tourism business are perilously quiet, particularly on weekdays. That means the employees, the business owners, their families, the landlords and their bank are all suffering as the chain of woes reaches deep into Pattaya’s broader community.

Despite the Thai government’s attempts to deny the true reason for Pattaya’s popularity over the past 6 years, including the annual walk-through the city’s red light hot spots and declaring there was no crime or prostitution, the sleazier side of Pattaya has continued to grow, with a growing number of proprietors trying to glean an income out of a slowly declining western patronage. Things were changing and business was getting tighter long before the Covid-19 and Thailand’s border closures.

n 2016, Thailand’s first female Minister of Tourism, Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, announced that Thailand was “closed to the sex trade”. Walking Street was to be gentrified and some of the red lights moved back from the foreshore to establish new bar and bar girl districts.

Several NGO reports have published the number of prostitutes in Pattaya were between 27,000 up to 30,000, depending on the report you read. The plight for these sex workers, post Covid, is bleak. As their work wasn’t officially recognised they weren’t able to access any of the government’s unemployment stimulus payments and weren’t protected under any of the country’s labour laws. Luckily for some of them, their employees worked hard to help them through the crisis. One of those is manager Timmy who works for the Night Wish Group.At their peak they ran up to 29 bars in Pattaya. Many of those have closed. At the moment they have about 13 open, as of the end of October.

For now Pattaya’s red lights have dimmed somewhat although it’s hardly all closed up. Some of the bars have also pivoted to an online model, with mixed results, where the bar girls, and bar boys, are able to ‘chat’ to online customers, viewers can buy them drinks and business continues as usual. Some bars have even stayed closed and are going 100% online with their digital bars. One proprietor told The Thaiger the online bar scene had become very lucrative but was unsure how long the novelty would last.

Apart from the steep decline in total tourist traffic, there’s been a big change in the mix, now mostly domestic tourists. Many businesses are switching up their business models to suit. Many just closed down, seemingly waiting it out to see what happens.

With much of the city’s old workforce abandoning Pattaya and heading home, there are still pockets of local life where communities have banded together to help each other through, whilst waiting for some sort of normality to return. For the tourist areas, mostly closer to the beaches, businesslike is patchy indeed.

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Tourism

Pattaya springs back to life over the long weekend, more to come

The Thaiger

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Pattaya springs back to life over the long weekend, more to come | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The Pattaya News

Pattaya, struggling along for the past 7 months with a handful of domestic tourists and Bangkok weekenders, has had its busiest weekend for a long time, albeit a long weekend created by the public holiday in commemoration of King Chulongkorn. Much of the increased traffic were Thai faces, a big change to the city’s old demographic of international tourists and expats.

Tourists flocked to the city for the long weekend which included the Eastern Colorful Food, Culture and Music festival stretching along the Beach Road foreshore.

The focus of the weekend’s events was the Beach Road which was visibly busy with expats, locals and tourists joining in the foreshore festival, talent shows, music concerts and local food. Central Festival, in the middle of the Beach Road, hosted a range of activities and shows.

Several proprietors with businesses in the city’s red light areas also told The Thaiger that it was the busiest they’d seen areas like Walking Street and Soi 6 since the tourist tap slowed to a dribble after the borders were closed down in late March.

The city, along with the rest of Thailand, might have a few more good weeks ahead with the Loy Krathong and Halloween celebrations. The Central Festival Bikini Beach Run is also being held next week. Around the corner the Fireworks Festival on November 27 and 28, a seafood festival, and not too far away, Christmas and New Year celebrations.

Speaking to a number of participants in the foreshore festival on Friday evening, some people said they’d come down from Bangkok to escape the threat of disruptions from the ongoing government protests. Chad said he needed a Bangkok Break…

“Just had to escape for the weekend and get out of the city. All anyone is talking about now is the protests and I needed a bit of Pattaya pampering.”

Another expat, working in the tourism sector, (who didn’t want to be named) noted that Pattaya’s famous (or infamous) nightlife had sprung back to life.

“It didn’t take long for the bargirls to flood back and the shutters open on the bars again. Most of the faces I’m seeing are Thai. I figure it may be the first visit to Pattaya for many of them. Let’s hope they keep coming.”

“Very happy to see the events and festivals are coming back to Pattaya. We will see more in the last 2 months of the year,” said Sawas Dee.

Beyond the foreshore area there was still much of the city still closed up and hotels were offering excellent rates through the usual OTAs. Pattaya is still in a struggle to keep its businesses open but at least the last 3 days have given a much-need boost to city life.

The Thaiger has a full story about Pattaya’s struggles on our YouTube channel tomorrow.

Watch a quick video from Sawas Dee here…

SOURCE: The Pattaya News

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