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A Decade Ago: Crowne Plaza, work permits and Chinese tourists

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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A Decade Ago: Crowne Plaza, work permits and Chinese tourists | The Thaiger

PHUKET: If you weren’t in Phuket ten years ago, you might not even know what the Crown Plaza was.

Nonetheless, it stole page one of the Phuket Gazette in the May 6-11, 2006 issue when it was bought by Kingdom Hotel Investment, which was headed by Saudi Arabian billionaire Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud – the 8th richest man in the world at the time.

Originally the Karon Villa Resort, the hotel complex was built in 1984 and then rebranded as the Crowne Plaza in 2003. Despite the unfamiliar name, the property itself is one that many socialites and tourists on the island will recognize, as it is now Movenpick Spa Resort Karon Beach.

Though Prince Alwaleed praised the opportunity to get his hands on a fully refurbished hotel in a pristine site on Phuket’s west coast, the big news for most readers was a little sidebar story on page one: Labor Chief speeds up work permit procedures.

It’s hard to imagine that the sometimes painful process of getting a work permit in Thailand was once even more torturous.

“Now, people do not need to come to our office two or three times. We will have their work permit renewed in just 15 minutes, and new work permits approved in just one week,” said the Phuket Provincial Employment Office (PPEO) chief at the time. Though optimistic time frames for receiving a work permit might not have endured over the last 10 years, as the number of foreigners and migrant labors has continued to rise, the system put in place by the chief definitely has helped with clarity. Instead of details being handwritten into work permits, they are now printed by a computer to make them more legible – to those who can read Thai.

It is not hard to imagine the doors for corruption and confusion that slammed closed with this change – not saying there aren’t other doors still cracked open. Nonetheless, clarity in work permits continues to be an issue in Phuket, especially within the diving industry. This New Year’s Eve, seven dive instructors based in Phuket were arrested and jailed for several days for working in Krabi province, apparently something not covered in their work permits. Unfortunately, the current PPEO chief is dead set against further clarifications inside work permits – shooting down the idea of providing English translations that would allow those who hold them to accurately understand what exactly they are permitted to do when it comes to work.

Worse than a couple of nights in jail for a work permit infraction, however, are underestimating the dangers of a sunny day in a tropical paradise, which prompted lifeguards to queue up ‘please-don’t-ignore-red-flags’ loop tape to warn locals and tourists about the dangers of Phuket’s west coast rip currents, which have already claimed the life of at least one young woman this year.

Ten years ago, the rips and other dangers on the island that killed three Chinese tourists in Phuket between January and May 2006 prompted China’s consul-general in Songkhla to call for help in protecting what has since become the island’s number one source market.

“The Chinese government recognizes that the most important thing for tourism development is safety, and so we urge Chinese tour operators to take very good care of their tourists. We also want the Thai government to help prevent Chinese tourists from getting into unsafe situations,” the consul-general said.

Despite safety being a priority for tourism development, neither the deaths of those three Chinese nationals – two by drowning – nor the dozens who have died in the following ten years seems to have hampered the explosive growth of the Chinese market.

Though Chinese regularly drown on snorkeling trips in our waters, it seems that etiquette has come to the front lines for Chinese-tourism management. In March this year, tour guides working with Chinese and Chinese tour company employees were invited to join an etiquette course. The course came in the wake of a video clip that went viral of Chinese tourists in a disgusting, wasteful feeding frenzy at a prawn buffet in Chiang Mai.

Of course, Thailand isn’t the only country trying to school Chinese tourists: a tourism guide imploring Chinese visitors in Japan to stop belching and passing gas in public has had to be republished in multiple languages – not just Chinese – so as to lay the blame for uncouth behavior on ‘foreign’ tourists generally, rather than guests from China alone.

Given the stink being raised, perhaps other tourists will just have to move or pick a different part of Phuket to explore if they are worried about being swarmed by those arriving by tour buses. May I suggest the Crowne Plaza? There weren’t nearly as many tourists on the island ten years ago – though the dangers in the waters and the roads were just as real.

— Isaac Stone Simonelli

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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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Crime

Now you see him, now you don’t… Patong Police hunt foreigner over $30k theft

Greeley Pulitzer

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Now you see him, now you don’t… Patong Police hunt foreigner over $30k theft | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Patong Police

Patong Police have yet to develop any tangible leads tracking down a foreigner who made off with US$30,000 in cash from a currency exchange booth in Kalim, north of Patong in Phuket, last Tuesday.

The man is about 168 centimetres tall with grey hair and around 60 years old, Patong police told The Phuket News.

“We have no clue what nationality he is.”

He was last seen at the currency exchange booth wearing a purple polo shirt, blue jeans and black cap. Police have checked hotels in the area, police stations across the island and Phuket Immigration, but have yet to join the dots and come up with firm leads.

“Investigators have checked CCTV in the area and collected what evidence we have but we still do not know the man’s name or where he was staying.”

The man had visited the booth several times before Tuesday, when he disappeared with the $30,000 in US banknotes, according to police.

“It was always small amounts”, he added, noting that the amounts didn’t warrant staff at the exchange booth to check the man’s passport before making the exchange.

The man arrived at the booth again at about 1pm on Tuesday, saying that he had 900,000 baht cash to exchange.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Crime

Mystery surrounds security guard found dead in his Phuket room

The Thaiger

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Mystery surrounds security guard found dead in his Phuket room | The Thaiger

PHOTOS: Phuket Hot News

The security guard of a hotel in Nai Yang, northern Phuket, 52 year old Yingyot Butsabong, from Maha Sarakham province, was found dead yesterday (October 16) in his room. Police remain mystified how the man came to grief.

A woman named Supattra received a call from the hotel he worked at and was informed that he didn’t show up at work yesterday, so she went to his apartment to check on him.

She saw that his room was locked from the inside, so used the key she had in her possession to open the room and found Yingyot laying on the floor, face down. She thought he was just sleeping so she tried to wake him up but once she flipped him, she found that he already passed away.

She immediately called Saku police, and once on the scene, police found that there was some blood on the floor. The man had a 2 centimetre wound on his left eyebrow which was deep into his skull. There was also a wound on his chin about 1 centimetre long and about a centimetre deep. His left eye had a bruise which looked like he was attacked by a hard object.

Police report that he had been dead for around four hours in the room.

The room was not ransacked and there was no sign of fighting or theft. His body has been sent to Thalang Hospital for a detailed autopsy and to look into the cause of death.

SOURCE: Phuket Hot News

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People

‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people

Nattha Thepbamrung

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‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people | The Thaiger

On October 18, the ‘Always Smile Journey’ group and its partners will host an exhibition with plenty of fun activities at the Yak Yai Market, near Chalong Circle, in Phuket. This event was designed to raise funds to provide free English classes for underprivileged people on the island of Phuket on Saturdays and Sundays. The group does not accept donations but aims to raise money through the sales of the products available at the event.

‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people | News by The Thaiger

From 2 pm to 8 pm, there will be a number of artists, musicians and performers who will keep the attendees entertained along the way. There will be a short film about His Majesty King Rama 9 as well as fun activities and games for kids and families, which are all free of charge.

The big bike crew is also a part of this event. They will ride a parade from Rawai Beach heading to the market and showcase their gorgeous two-wheel buddies.

One of the highlights of the Always Smile Journey exhibition is the ‘Happening’ artists group, who will draw and paint a picture of the His Majesty King Rama 9 under the name ‘Street Art King Bhumibol’ on a 4×10 meter sign live at the event so the guests will experience this large-scale art in action. The Happening will also offer portrait sketching for the participants.

‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people | News by The Thaiger

One of the works created by the Happening team; a painting of HM the King Rama 9 on a huge wall (Photo credit: Chawat Chumpasan)

There will also be some western menus available at the event which will be donated to underprivileged children.

This free English class project has over seven years of experience through its cooperation working with individuals and other charity organizations. Throughout the years, the group visited several areas such as Ban Laem Hoy School, Ban Bopud School and Ban Angthong School in Samui, Surat Thani province, Ban Bueng Ao Oun School and Ban Kakoh Rayong, in Surin province, Jalae Village of Lahu (Muser) in Chiang Rai province, as well as community education centers in Siem Reap, Cambodia and in Luang Prabang, in Laos.

This event is a cooperation between several groups, including Happening, Yak Yai Market and Arrow Media, Tattoo artist group, Thonburi Art School Alumni, International School of Tourism, Suratthani Rajabhat University, big bike group from Phuket, artists/performers/musicians from many provinces as well as several businesses across Phuket.

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