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Thailand News Today | Anutin wants to get rid of the Thailand Pass for Thais

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After several raids this week, police are investigating several officials over a sex trafficking case in the southern Thai province of Surat Thani.

The director-general of Thailand’s Department of Children and Youth has been charged for hampering an investigation into a trafficking ring. Several other officials found to be involved in the ring include the chairman of a local savings cooperative, and a deputy chairman of Punpin district administrative organisation’s council.

Apart from the DCY director-general, 18 suspects are wanted for child sex-related charges. These charges include colluding to operate a child sex trafficking ring, and luring minors into prostitution, among others. One individual, so far only identified as “Aem” allegedly assaulted children at a shelter, to pressure them into prostitution. A police lieutenant general of the National Anti-Corruption Commission told the Bangkok Post that Aem was charged with physically assaulting a minor, malfeasance in office, and obstructing a police investigation.

Sex trafficking of both children, and adults, is a notable, ongoing problem that plagues Thailand. In March, police raided a bar in Bangkok’s Nana area and found that at least three teenage girls were offering sexual services. Two are 15 years old, another is 14. A woman at the bar was arrested on child sex trafficking charges.

The alleged agent was charged with human trafficking, sex trafficking, encouraging children to commit crimes, and opening a bar without permission.

Also in March, police in Chachoengsao, a province east of Bangkok, arrested a woman suspected of tricking another woman into working as a prostitute in the United Arab Emirates. The alleged victim told authorities she was invited to work as a masseuse at a spa in Dubai. The woman who invited her was called ‘Ms. Lilly’, and promised her a 40,000 baht monthly salary. After she flew to Dubai in September, Ms. Lilly confiscated her passport and ordered her to give clients sexual services.

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Thailand’s Public Health Minister wants to get rid of the Thailand Pass. But don’t get too excited, Anutin Charnvirakul is proposing scrapping it for Thai returnees only – at least for now.

According to a Bangkok Post report, the health minister says he will submit the proposal to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration.
However, when asked whether the emergency decree should also be revoked, Anutin says this is a matter for the PM to decide, adding that he personally sees no problem with keeping it, in order to support existing disease prevention measures.

Officials continue to praise the seemingly more convenient Thailand Pass process, now that a requirement for PCR testing on arrival has been lifted. Dr. Sumanee from the CCSA says that between April 29 and May 4, 213,958 travellers registered on the system, with 94.8% approved. She adds that Thailand’s daily new infection rate continues to drop and the number of patients hospitalised with severe Covid symptoms is also falling.

According to government spokesperson Traisulee, Anutin has been monitoring Thailand’s Covid situation following the Songkran holiday and noted that daily new case numbers continue to drop. Traisulee says this looks promising for declaring the virus endemic in the kingdom. To that end, Anutin has instructed his ministry to work with colleagues in the transport and tourism ministries to devise plans for the country’s economic recovery.

Yesterday, Thailand reported fewer than 10,000 new Covid-19 infections for the fourth day in a row. The death toll is also the lowest reported since early March. While the 9,790 new infections reported yesterday are slightly higher than the 9,288 reported on Wednesday, Covid-related deaths dropped to 54 yesterday, from 82 reported the day before.

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The governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand says he remains hopeful that 20 million holidaymakers will travel to Thailand next year.

Yuthasak Supasorn says this will almost certainly be possible if China lifts its border restrictions by then. He adds that he expects tourism revenue to reach 80% of its 2019 level during 2023.

Earlier this week, the Thai PM, Prayut Chan-o-cha, predicted that Thailand would welcome around 20 million international arrivals next year, provided Covid has been declared endemic and there are no new threats to tourism.

In order to get things going, Yuthasak says the country should plan to attract between 7 and 10 million tourists this year, adding that there are positive signs this can be done. On May 1, the kingdom welcomed 19,727 tourists, which rose to 15,439 and 14,108 on May 2 and 3, respectively. By contrast, Thailand welcomed between 10,000 and 12,000 a day last month, before PCR testing on arrival was lifted.

Data shows that as of May 3, Thailand has received 853,165 tourists, with 74,000 of those coming from the UK. 63,000 came from Germany, 56,000 from Russia, 51,000 from India, and 49,000 from the US.

Yuthasak is also optimistic about the low season, saying he believes Thailand could welcome 500,000 long-haul travellers this month. According to the TAT governor, a recent France Info report shows that searches for airline tickets to Thailand have quadrupled, while the most popular destination among Norwegians booking summer holidays in Bangkok.

———

Thailand may have its critics, particularly in light of recent ham-fisted and bureaucratic attempts to revive tourism, but the Kingdom remains one of the most popular destinations in the world. At least, that’s what a study by financial services provider Visa has found.

Nation Thailand reports that Thailand sits at number 4 among the world’s top tourism destinations, according to the Visa Global Travel Intentions Study.
Thailand has come in behind the US, the UK and India, with 30% of those surveyed saying they chose Thailand to take a break, 25% saying they went to Thailand to escape and relax, and 18% saying they chose Thailand for adventure and outdoor pursuits.

According to the Nation Thailand report, the most popular destinations in the kingdom are Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, and Hua Hin, with tourists most interested in offerings such as traditional Thai massage and Thai food. Many also expressed interest in visiting spa resorts and experiencing Thai culture, including visits to Buddhist temples.

 

Serene Gay, an ASEAN region manager at Visa, has welcomed the findings, saying Thailand’s re-opening will significantly help to revive its tourism sector. She adds that businesses in the kingdom should prepare to welcome the return of overseas visitors and to ensure their businesses can meet tourists’ demands, which may have changed since the pandemic. As an example, she says demands for enhanced financial security and contactless payment systems will be key to sustaining growth.

——-

The Thai office of one American beauty brand wants to push Thai schools to ditch their mandatory haircuts for students. This news comes after the brand, Dove, has started working with Girl Guides, Thailand’s version of Girl Scouts, to empower women to reach their fullest potential.

This week, Dove launched a campaign called #LetHerGrow, and released an ad about the impact of forced haircuts on girls. The video shows young girls having their haircuts all in the same short bob, and crying. It then showed older girls and women who all have their own unique hairstyles, and are confident. The ad has sparked a debate in Thailand about whether forced haircuts are a violation of rights.

A study by the British analytics firm YouGov found that 8 in 10 Thai high school students had their self-esteem negatively impacted by forced haircuts. Yet, 74% of respondents said forced haircuts were still being used to discipline students. This is despite the fact that ‘officially’, haircut rules changed two years ago, and making students get haircuts as punishment was outlawed. Under the supposedly ‘official’ laws, students can wear their hair long, as long as it is “neat and tidy”.

The law also supposedly allows both boys and girls to have either long or short hair.

In 2020 when a wave of youth protests swept through Thailand, mandatory haircuts were one thing students demanded to change. The other demands involved schools’ strict dress codes. Thailand’s school uniforms have origins in the country’s military history, and originally were supposed to symbolise love for the country.

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