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Phuket Opinion: Refugee runaways – shelters aren’t jails

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Opinion: Refugee runaways – shelters aren’t jails | The Thaiger

Jiranun Cheamcharoen, 46, from Ratchaburi, received a BA from Thammasat University and an MA from Ramkhamhaeng University. She has been a social worker since 1991 and the director of the Phuket Shelter for Children and Families on Koh Sireh for four years. Here, she talks about the difficulties of housing Rohingya children and what action she took after they ran away from the shelter.

PHUKET: When the Rohingya children ran away, the first thing my staff feared was me. They were afraid I would blame them. But I don’t blame them at all. We did our best to take care of them and worked 24 hours a day to look after them.

The responsibility of taking care of these children is not just ours, it is the responsibility of the province and the government as well. I didn’t want them to run away, nobody did. But our shelter is not set up to detain people. This is an open house for people who are in trouble and who need help from us and choose to live with us.

At our shelter, we generally take care of children and women with domestic problems.

We don’t do anything here to prevent people from running away because we are not a detention center. Our mandate is to provide accommodation and food, and give people a place to stay that’s better than the one they left.

We have 10 people working here, including only two men. We can’t have the men on night duty every night, so sometimes women have to be on night duty. The point is, we don’t have enough staff to stop people from running away.

The Rohingya children were a special case. They are refugees under age 18, and according to Thai law they cannot be detained as prisoners.

This is kind of a Catch-22: the government can’t detain them so they send them to us, but we’re not set up to detain them either. The only thing we can do to keep people from leaving is treat them well.

In any case, we accepted the Rohingya children into our home and treated them the same way we treat Thai people who live with us.

We provided them with a bed, three meals a day and the items they needed for daily life. I played football with them even though we couldn’t communicate because of language differences.

As with everyone else who stays here, we recorded the names of the children and photographed them. We keep case information on everyone in order to try to figure out the best way to help them. Most of the Rohingya children who ran away were over 15 years old.

Of course I am worried about them. This is not their country and they do not speak our language. Where can they live? What if one of them is injured in an accident?

I didn’t stop caring about them after they left. When we realized they were gone, we contacted the police and immigration and asked for help in searching for them.

My staff and I asked around this area to see if anyone had seen them. We asked imams to let us know if they saw them. We don’t have the authority to make them come back, but we can call the police and ask them to do that.

What else could I do? I am open to any suggestions. We are happy to work with other private or

official organizations. If anyone wants to send people to “guard” the shelter, I am willing to have them join us.

We wanted to help these children, but at the same time I know that living at our shelter was not their goal. I don’t know where they would rather be, I just know that no matter how hard we tried, they didn’t want to stay here.

It’s really beyond our ability and authority to fix the problem and satisfy everyone.

— Chutharat Plerin

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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Expats

Opinion: Retirees and medical insurance in Thailand

The Thaiger

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Opinion: Retirees and medical insurance in Thailand | The Thaiger

By Barry Kenyon of The Pattaya Mail

Thai government spokespeople, in recent years, have emphasised that that Thai hospitals are not free for foreigners. They have cited examples of sick and crowd-funded aliens desperate to get back to their home countries, or annual reports from public hospitals bemoaning the unpaid bills of foreign nationals.

So far not a lot has happened. Holders of one year 0/A visas or ten year 0/X, issued by Thai consulates and embassies abroad, do now require medical insurance worth at least 400,000 baht for in-patient treatment and 40,000 baht for out-patient care. But the vast majority of expat retirees in Thailand receive their annual extensions of stay at a Thai immigration office. They do not currently require insurance.

Will that change? It’s not clear. The government has already stated that long-stay aliens with a history of physical illness may be checked out before an extension of stay is granted. What this means, if anything, is unclear but it could signify the immigration bureau’s refusal if an applicant is discovered to have unpaid hospital bills.

One substantial reason for leaving well alone is that many expat retirees self-insure because they are too old or infirm to obtain medical insurance. But these wealthier retirees contribute billions of baht annually to (mostly) private hospital coffers when significant surgery is required. They would be forced out of the country if unobtainable medical cover was made compulsory, thus leading to a gigantic loss of income.

It’s also true that the mandatory insurance requirement for 0/A visa holders is modest. A sum of 400,000 baht may seem a lot but is unlikely to cover the total bill for heart surgery, most cancer operations and stays in an intensive care unit, at any rate in the private sector.

Read the rest of the editorial HERE.

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Opinion

Buddhists call for boycott of Hilton & Waldorf Astoria Hotels with the opening of Siddhartha Lounge

The Thaiger

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Buddhists call for boycott of Hilton & Waldorf Astoria Hotels with the opening of Siddhartha Lounge | The Thaiger

OPINION: The Buddhist Times

Since its creation in 1996, Buddha-Bar Paris has been using the name and image of Buddha in it’s Bars and Hotels throughout the world. Typically the franchises use large statues of Buddha in their Bars and around dance floors and in restaurants similar to a Buddhist temple.

What makes the use of Buddha’s image in these bars most insulting to Buddhists around the world is that Buddhism does not support the consumption of alcohol. So to use the Buddha’s image as decoration to promote the consumption and sale of alcohol and as a prop on dance floors and in restaurants is especially disrespectful and hurtful to Buddhists.

Now comes a further insult with the Buddha-Bar franchise opening the Siddhartha Lounge at Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah. (Siddhartha Gautama being the full name of Buddha).

According to the Knowing Buddha Organisation in Thailand what the Buddha-Bar franchise is doing is not only disrespectful but it is immoral. The foundation points out that “Respect is Common Sense”.

Buddhists feel hurt by the misuse of the name and image of their father, as people of other faiths would be if the image of Christ or Mohammad were used to promote bars and nightclubs.

The Buddha–Bar, restaurant, and hotel franchise created by French-Romanian restaurateur Raymond Vișan and DJ and interior designer Claude Challe, with its original location having opened in Paris, France in 1996.

Raymond Vișan, according to Wikipedia, had the idea of establishing the chain of restaurants and bars which came from his fascination with the Orient. However at the age of 60 Visan suddenly died of terminal cancer. The franchise was continued by co-founder Claude Challe and Vișan’s wife Tarja, who took over the reins of the Buddha Bar franchise upon Vișan death.

Critics of the Vișan’s and Claude Challe say that these self described artists and creators have created nothing but bad Karma and Sin for themselves. They suggest that Buddha-Bar franchise is a form of “grotesque Plagiarism ” which has merely hi-jacked a 2500 year old religion, using the name and image of Buddha, who imparts peace, compassion and loving kindness, for the purpose of selling alcohol and making money. As any case of plagiarism it is expected that Buddha-Bar and Waldorf Astoria will soon find them selves in the courts say Buddhims advocats.

Buddhist around the world are calling the Boycotting of Waldorf Astoria Hotels Hilton Hotels, Buddha-Bars and the music of Claude Challe, demanding that they stop using the image of Buddha and instead creat their own brand.

The views expressed in this editorial do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of The Thaiger or its staff

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Opinion

Pattaya getting set for the Indian era – OPINION

The Thaiger

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Pattaya getting set for the Indian era – OPINION | The Thaiger

by Dan Cheeseman

I was a bit taken back by posters across the social networks where I shared the post that simply would not accept the Indians were bringing any value to Pattaya. Claiming Thailand would regret squeezing out the Western market and turning to the Chinese and Indians. It came across as sour grapes to me and also a delusion of grandeur from many of the Brits and Aussies that for some reason hold themselves on such a high global status.

I am a Brit and in the past probably have fallen victim to such delusions but am now refocused and aligned to the shift in the global market. I can see just how real this Chinese and Indian market has become and see no reason for it to not to continue growing.

According to Tourism Authority of Thailand, Indian arrivals into Thailand is expected to reach 5 million by 2023.

It is well documented what is happening in Thailand with the Chinese tourist and investor but still, the Indian market gets skirted over by many who refuse to accept anything other than the stereotypical images.

But they are wrong to do so and I think the winners in Pattaya will be those that embrace the Indian market as there is an increasing percentage who have good money in the pocket and are ready to spend it.

Just this week I was with a hotel developer and they exactly spoke of the shift in investors that parallel what we are seeing through tourism. They said before the Western market was good but now that has cooled, then the Russians came but that too has eased off; both due to changes in exchange rates from their end. Then the Chinese started to buy but as their exchange rates became less strong against the baht and getting money out of their country that slowed, but now has recovered somewhat.

He then said what others have also been saying, that the Indians were now becoming a very important market for selling too.

Whilst many restaurants are looking to target the F.I.T (Free Independent Traveller) Chinese tourist, I personally think the Indian tourist is a better fit for Western-type business in town.

Read the rest of the editorial HERE

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