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Top 7 Thailand expat myths

Tim Newton

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Top 7 Thailand expat myths | The Thaiger
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If you read the internet, particularly one particular website we won’t name (thaivisa.com)… whoops, then you’d think that Thailand is a dreadful place to visit, filled with hate-filled expats who live in fear and loathing of, well, everything. According to many, the sky is likely to fall in at any moment and everything in Thailand is too expensive, too corrupt, too hot, too cold and too dangerous.

Here are a seven popular myths some expats like to keep touting.

The TAT (Tourist Authority of Thailand) make up the tourist arrival numbers

This has been a popular conspiracy theory for decades. As the numbers of tourists continued to rise, so did the comment “they’re making it up”. With no evidence to back their claims, keyboard warriors, seemingly unhappy that there is a rise in the number of tourists coming to Thailand, claim passionately that the TAT are just inventing numbers to appease their bosses.

It should be mentioned that the TAT don’t run around counting heads but get their figures from the Thai Ministry of Sports and Tourism which collate the statistics from the Immigration Department reports.

Meanwhile the airports get busier, add new terminals, more flights arrive, new hotels get built, new tourist attractions open, new condos get constructed and people scream about long immigration queues.

The TAT have assured us, over the years, that the methods used for collecting tourist arrival data has been the same for 20 years and that the figures are audited. The risk the TAT would have of being exposed with fraudulent numbers would be a major loss of face.

However if you’d prefer to believe ‘CrankyPattaya’, ‘BritRoot’ or ‘TratTrash’, then go for it.

Things are getting too expensive in Thailand

And things are getting more expensive around the world. It’s called inflation. The rises in prices for food, services in goods in Thailand can partly be explained with the rise of tourism to the country with popular locations having higher rentals than in the past as the value of the property in tourist regions rises.

Whilst you can pay 300+ baht for a pad thai in a tourist area, locals can still get the same meal for under 50 baht. Is the price higher than it was 10 years ago? Of course.

The differences in prices between the popular tourist magnets and the outlying areas of the country continues to become more apparent though. If you’re going to live in Pattaya, Phuket or Sukhumvit Road, then you will find many prices have risen along with the popularity of the locations and the rising real estate prices.

You have a high chance of dying on Thailand’s roads

According to figures from the World Health Organisation, Eritrea has the most number of road deaths (with 48.4 deaths per 100,000 residents), Dominican Republic – 41.7, Libya – 40.5, Thailand – 38.1, Venezuela – 37.2. So Thailand has, statistically, the fourth most dangerous roads in the world. The statistic looks bad.

But when you factor in that 74% of those deaths are people on motorcycles, often also drunk and not wearing a helmet, it’s not as bad as the numbers suggest, if you’re not in the high-risk categories. But IF you’re not drunk, wear a helmet, ride responsibly or travel in a car, your chances of getting killed on the roads are a LOT lower. Whilst the statistics still look truly awful they are heavily weighted against young males between 16-24.

So if you don’t fall into the ‘at risk’ categories that make up a very high majority of deaths on Thailand’s roads, then you are in less danger than the world average. That’s still not good enough but it puts Thailand’s high ranking into perspective.

The Thai government don’t want us to stay here

In recent years there has been additional levels of paperwork put on the application for visas for long-term stayers in the Kingdom. In the past some of the requirements were overlooked or sorted out through, ummm, negotiation. At the same time the Thai Government has announced many other changes to visas and introduced Smart Visas and BOI visas, aimed at encouraging skilled professionals to live and work in Thailand.

All this while the exchange rates for many currencies have turned bad, especially for UK, European and Australian citizens, so their pensions or offshore investments haven’t been stretching as far as in the past.

Most of the changes come in the form of enforcement of existing rules and a general ‘clean up’ of procedures at Thai Immigration offices. There have been many improvements, well… attempts at improvements, along the way as well – things like drive-thru services.

Bottomline, if you think it’s difficult to live, work and stay in Thailand, just check how difficult it is for a Thai citizen to move to your country.

All expats sit in bars and date bar girls

In the 1980s this may have been statistically prevalent. But the type-cast expat living in Pattaya, Patpong and Phuket has changed radically in the past 30 or so years. Now expats come from a much broader range of countries, settle here for many different reasons, are younger, many have families and are much more likely to be working here than retired. And you’re unlikely to see them sitting in bar chatting up bar girls (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

But old perceptions die hard and the typical Thai expat is still thought to be white, older and enjoys dating younger Thai bar girls. Statistically this is a tiny proportion of the 300,000 or so expats thought to be living and working in Thailand in 2019.

Staying in the Kingdom without a job, with limited funds and no health insurance is becoming increasingly complex. But you’d find that situation in most parts of the world now.

The Thai government is a dictatorship

We’ll tread a little carefully here. Thailand’s fraught experiment with democracy, since the absolute monarchy was abolished back in 1932, has been fragile. Lots of coups, lots of Army tampering and lots of elections. Thailand now has the dubious distinction of being the world’s only current Military-led government. But is it a ‘dictatorship’ in the historical use of the phrase? Probably not.

The NCPO, the Army-led National Council of Peace and Order, took the reins of government on May 22, 2014 in a bloodless take-over from the civilian-elected government.

But the Thai Government are in good company in and around South East Asia. Laos and Vietnam are both run by communist governments (with stable capitalist economies), Cambodia is a constitutional monarchy run by a leader who has been seen to control the ‘elections’ by suppressing political dissent. Malaysia is a federal constitutional monarchy but has suffered ongoing political division and nepotism, and more recently a rise in religions tensions that cripple the government’s ability to govern. Singapore is more of a family business than a democracy – the south east asian economic miracle of the 20th century. Brunei is run by a Sultan who has recently introduced aspects of Sharia law into the Sultanate – no elections there. Myanmar is a quasi army-run dictatorship. Etc, etc…

Indonesia, Japan and South Korea are the only relatively stable Asian democracies but they are few and far between.

So Thailand’s unique take on the words ‘election’ and ‘democracy’ should be viewed in a wider framework of pan-Asian politics. Bottomline, there aren’t tanks rolling down the streets or soldiers standing on street corners toting guns. In the Wikipedia Democracy Index, Thailand falls into the category of ‘hybrid regime’ and that’s probably about right.

There’s NO Freedom of Speech in Thailand

Whilst there are many subtle, and a few less subtle, limitations on Thai media, you will see robust debate and editorials printed in Thai and foreign-language media any day of the week. It’s a uniquely ‘Thai’ type of media but there are a few well-documented cases of individuals who have dared to tread over the grey line.

Going to a Thai media scrum is about as robust as you’ll find anywhere in the world and the questions fired at politicians, usually cloaked in very polite language, can cover just about any issue. There are a few ‘no go’ topics in Thailand and that’s a cultural thing that takes a few years to fully understand. But, believe me, the Thai media is a robust part of the ongoing political and economic discourse of the country, despite the many perceived or real restrictions. Like many other things in Thailand, when it comes to freedom of the media, TIT.

The Thaiger has never been contacted by the police, the Army or government officials to discuss or remove anything we’ve published.

Top 7 Thailand expat myths | News by The Thaiger

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Tim Newton has lived in Thailand since 2012. An Australian, he has worked in the media, principally radio and TV, for nearly 40 years. He has won the Deutsche Welle Award for best radio talk program, presented 3,900 radio news bulletins in Thailand alone, hosted 450 daily TV news programs, produced 1,800 videos, TV commercials and documentaries and is now the General Manager and writer for The Thaiger. He's reported for CNN, Deutsche Welle TV, CBC, Australia's ABC TV and Australian radio during the 2018 Cave Rescue.

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Crime

More people charged in illegal surrogacy scandal

Caitlin Ashworth

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More people charged in illegal surrogacy scandal | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Khaosod

More people involved in the surrogacy scandal turned themselves in yesterday and are now facing charges. According to the Bangkok Post, 4 doctors and a scientist are looking at charges for their alleged involvement in the illegal ring which uses Thai women to carry babies for people in China.

A report yesterday says a Thai doctor faces charges for human trafficking and involvement in the ring. Names have not been reported at this stage in Thai media. The Post says the 5 people who turned themselves in yesterday face charges of conspiring to commit a transnational crime and engaging in illegal commercial surrogacy.

The ring is believed to be funded by Chinese nationals. Some Thai women are taken to Laos to have the embryo implanted, returned to Thailand for the pregnancy and then to China to give birth. Official say surrogates were paid up to 450,000 baht. The Post reports the surrogacy ring started in 2012 and there could be up to 100 women recruited as a surrogate since then.

Back in February, 5 Thai women and a Chinese couple were arrested in police raids, according to the Bangkok Post. The raids found multiple pregnant women and a newborn baby. Police are still tracking down more people who are involved in the ring. The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division chief said “as for suspects who remain at large, police teams are keeping a close watch on them.”

SOURCES:Bangkok Post| Bangkok Post | Thai PBS

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Government looks to domestic travel in phase 3 of easing Covid restrictions

Maya Taylor

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Government looks to domestic travel in phase 3 of easing Covid restrictions | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Bady GB on Unsplash

A committee has been convened to agree which restrictions can be lifted as Thailand enters the third phase of its exit from lock-down. Addressing a press conference on behalf of the committee, General Somsak Roongsita says re-starting domestic tourism is one of the main priorities of the committee, which comprises public health officials, doctors and business leaders.

While interprovincial buses resume services, and popular resort areas such as Hua Hin have already reopened their beaches (including the popular horse rides), General Somsak adds that provincial governors may use their own discretion and may leave current restrictions in place or even strengthen them if it’s deemed necessary.

The government is hoping to reignite domestic travel and tourism before opening up the borders to allow foreigners to return. All airports are closed to international flights until at least the end of June, except for repatriation flights (and other government, freight and military exceptions)

In Bangkok, the Grand Palace and other iconic landmarks are gearing up to reopen to domestic tourists, but General Somsak says decisions have not yet been made on attractions such as water parks or amusement parks.

The Pattaya News reports that the northern province of Nan says it is not planning to reopen to domestic tourists at this time and requires all returnees to be quarantined. Other provinces, such as Chonburi, which has not had a new case of Covid-19 in over 30 days, have not yet said what they plan to do, but an announcement is expected this weekend, with some hope that beaches in the province may reopen.

SOURCE: The Pattaya News

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Hope for overseas foreigners separated from families in Thailand

Maya Taylor

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Hope for overseas foreigners separated from families in Thailand | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Chuttersnap on Unsplash

“We appreciate the sacrifices and regret the inconvenience caused.”

For weeks now, foreign nationals who normally reside in Thailand but find themselves stranded overseas due to the Covid-19 travel ban, have been pleading with the government to be allowed to return to their families. Now, there may finally be some hope on the horizon. At least their plight is now being addressed, albeit in generalisations, by the CSSA as part of their daily briefings.

Natapanu Nopakun, from the Foreign Ministry’s Information Department says once the government has finished repatriating all Thai citizens who wish to return home, they will look at doing the same for foreigners. But, initially, this will only allow work permit holders or those with a permanent residence permit to enter the country, according a report in Nation Thailand.

“Our repatriation mission is nearing completion, and once that is done, then we can accommodate the flow of foreigners stranded outside Thailand. We appreciate the sacrifices and regret the inconvenience caused but hope everyone understands that even though it appears as if Thailand has won the battle against the virus, this is only the beginning and we have not yet overcome the war.”

“The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration is currently discussing the option of letting foreigners enter the country in due course. We also plan to give priority to permanent residents and those with work permits to return as soon as the situation has eased.”

“George” has been living in Thailand for 12 years and married for 9 years to a Thai citizen. But he found himself locked out when the border gates game down at the end of March whilst he was visiting his sick mother back in the UK.

“It all happened quite suddenly and I was unable to fly back into Thailand. I desperately miss my wife and two children and will do whatever I need to so I can back with them. This is a time when families need to be together and the Thai government has shown no compassion for our situation and not even responded to my messages or letters.

Barry Mutch missed the birth of his son when he got stranded in Oman as a result of Thailand’s ban on international flights and has only seen his child on video calls. As he works off-shore however, and rarely spends more than a month at a time in Thailand, he does not hold a work permit or permanent residency. He is pleading to be allowed to return, adding that he has no problem with doing the mandatory 14 day quarantine and being tested for the virus, offering to pay for it himself.

“My son needs a father with him. It’s tough right now. I should be there bonding with him.”

“Glen” says… “Been stuck in Hawaii since 19 February, came to Hawaii to conduct personal business and file my taxes along with my grandsons graduation. My family in Thailand misses me but we are doing alright and are least I can face time with my family.”

Foreign nationals who find themselves stuck overseas, separated from their Thai partners and children, have created two Facebook groups, “Farangs Stranded Abroad Due to Lockdown in Thailand” and “Thai Expats Stranded Overseas Due to Covid-19 Travel Restrictions”, where they share information and provide support, while campaigning to be reunited with their loved ones.

The number of new reported cases of the virus remains in single digits in Thailand, with the vast majority being detected while in state quarantine or detected when disembarking repatriation flights. The government is gradually lifting some restrictions, although a ban on international flights remains in place until at least the end of June.

The CCSA has said in the past that “it will spend the rest of June repatriating Thais from overseas” which means there could be at least another month of waiting for foreigners who wish to be re-united with their families.

The Thaiger will continue to publish the latest information on the matter as soon as it becomes available.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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