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Top 7 Thai expat myths

Tim Newton

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Top 7 Thai expat myths | The Thaiger

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.

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 Thai 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 360 daily TV news programs, produced 1,800 videos, TV commercials and documentaries and is now CEO and writer for The Thaiger - Website, Radio, TV, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. He presented for CNN, Deutsche Welle TV, CBC, Australia's ABC TV and Australian radio during the 2018 Cave Rescue and provides stories for Feature Story News as the south east Asian correspondent.

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Business

Somkid blames sluggish formation of Thai government for GDP downgrading

The Thaiger

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Somkid blames sluggish formation of Thai government for GDP downgrading | The Thaiger

Deputy PM Somkid Jatusripitak is saying the delay in forming Thailand’s next government caused the downgrading of the country’s GDP projections from 3.8% to 3.3%.

The Bank of Thailand downgraded their forecasts at a meeting this morning.

But Somkid noted that he was confident that Thailand’s GDP growth will pick up again once the new cabinet had been announced and royally endorsed.

He also said that the depressed world economy and the ongoing trade spat between the US and China was adversely affecting the Thai economy and mostly out of his ministry’s control. He also promised that the new government would fast-track infrastructure projects like the high-speed train routes linking Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang and U-Tapao, and the link between Bangkok and the Laos border.

Somkid was speaking at the opening of the Saha Group Fair at the Bangkok International Trade and Exhibition Centre today.
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Politics

Constitutional Court orders investigation of 32 MPs in media share row

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Constitutional Court orders investigation of 32 MPs in media share row | The Thaiger

The Thai Constitutional Court has agreed to accept a petition against 32 MPs from the military-aligned coalition over alleged media share holdings. But the Court has allowed the MPs to continue their parliamentary duties. This dispensation was not offered to anti-junta politician Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit from the opposition Future Forward Party who is being investigated over the same allegations.

The court said this case was different from that of Thanathorn, in whose case the junta-appointed Election Commission had already conducted an initial investigation to confirm wrongdoing before the case was forwarded to the court.

The Constitutional Court reasons that the 32 MPs should not be suspended because it was still unclear if the businesses in which they had invested could in fact be considered media.

There was no committee investigating the 32 new cases before they were submitted to the court, the judges said, adding since the matter was still unclear, the MPs should not be suspended from their parliamentary duties.

Nine other MPs who had also been subject to complaints for possibly breaching the Constitution by holding media shares, were spared in yesterday’s decision. The court turned down the petition to examine their cases. The MPs spared included six from Palang Pracharat and three from the Democrats.

The court said its examination of the documents presented by the plaintiff showed that the companies in which these nine MPs had invested had no objective to run a newspaper or any type of media business.

The total of 41 MPs, like Thanathorn, had been accused of holding shares in media companies. The petition had been filed by Future Forward MPs through the parliamentary mechanism and submitted to the Constitutional Court with endorsement by House Speaker Chuan Leekpai.

The 2017 Constitution prohibits shareholdings in media companies for MPs and MP candidates. Violation of the rule is punishable with disqualification of the MP, imprisonment and fine, as well as a 20-year ban from politics.

The court’s decision to allow the embattled MPs to continue their work in the lower house favours the pro-junta bloc, which has only a slim majority over its rival bloc. If the Palang Pracharat MPs had been suspended from their duties any lower house vote, including a vote of no confidence, would have been lost by the pro-Junta government.

SOURCE: The Nation

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Business

Trying to find a pulse in Thailand’s economic health

The Thaiger

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Trying to find a pulse in Thailand’s economic health | The Thaiger

Thailand’s economy is south-east Asia’s wounded soldier as the newly elected Thai government tries to boost confidence and stimulate the economy after five years of military rule. Certainly the past 12 months have been the most challenging.

GDP growth hit a four-year low of 2.8% for Q1 2019 and exports remain weak.

Despite having unlimited power for half a decade, PM Prayut and the NCPO have done little to improve Thailand’s economic situation or the plight of the average Thai.

Going after the previous premier and the elected Pheu Thai government as soon as they came to power over a rice pledging scheme (subsidies for rice farmers), the NCPO have used the same blunt tool of agricultural subsidies to keep the northern and north-east farmers ‘happy’. After all, that was Prayut’s big promise after seizing power in 2014, “bringing happiness back to the people”.

Big infrastructure promises and spending have made good headlines but are yet to show any economic gain for most Thai people. It hasn’t really made Thai people ‘happy’ yet.

Of the ASEAN 5 economies (Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines and Thailand), the Land of Smiles has performed the worst over the fast five years averaging 3.6% growth against the average of the other four nations of 5-6.2% GDP growth.

For 2019, Thailand’s National Economic and Social Development Council, responsible for calculating the official GDP figures, has set growth at 3.3-3.8%, down from 4% estimated at the start of the year.  If the tourist tap stops gushing and slows to a trickle and the export figures keep trending down, the estimates may have to be revised down further again.

Trying to find a pulse in Thailand's economic health | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: Global Economic Data, Indicators, Charts & Forecasts

Following the election and the (soon) completed formation of the new government it would appear that political stability abounds for Thailand but the fragile 19-party coalition is not predicted to last long. It’s also considered unlikely the new PM, who is the old PM from the five years of military rule, will be a fan of lengthy discussions, public consultation and parliamentary debate. Some of the smaller parties, who threw their weight behind the pro-junta coalition initially, are now getting flakey and looking to cross the floor and take their place in the back-benches of the opposition side of the new parliament.

Public debt has also steadily risen under military rule, climbing to 34% of GDP last year from 30% when they came to power. But international credit rating agencies are not ringing alarm bells just yet and Thailand’s public debt levels remain lower than Vietnam, Malaysia or Indonesia.

Thailand’s two largest infrastructure projects will surely continue to manifest, though the next phases of the contract will now be subject to debate in the new parliament. These include the 225 billion baht high-speed rail link between Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang and U-Tapao international airports, and the China-backed high-speed line between Bangkok and the Thai-Laos border with a proposed budget of 300 billion baht.

And the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), the expansion of industry for the areas from Bangkok’s east to Rayong, will remain a showcase for economic growth for the new government.

Thailand will now have to choose whether it’s sufficient to keep surfing along as the wounded soldier of south-east Asian economies or whether it can muscle its way back to a position of regional economic prominence.

Trying to find a pulse in Thailand's economic health | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: National Economic and Social Development Council

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