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Hoteliers cautiously optimistic

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: Local hotel operators remain guardedly optimistic that the bloodless military coup staged in Bangkok last night will have a limited impact on Phuket tourism industry, provided that events do not turn violent.

Wolfgang Meusberger, General Manager of the Holiday Inn in Patong, this morning told the Gazette, “I think it all depends what happens over the next 48 hours. At this moment customers are inquiring about the situation, so we are advising them at this moment that it is appropriate or okay to travel to Phuket. But we also ask them to check the travel advisories issued by their countries if they are not sure what to do.

“We are receiving a flood of inquiries from customers about what is going on, so we have prepared an information letter to the customers…I personally think that if the situation remains calm and quiet that the impact will be very limited. But if the situation deteriorates and there is violence in the streets then there would be a serious impact on tourism.”

Mr Meusberger said there had not been a single cancellation after the terrorist bombings in Haad Yai and that as of this morning he was not aware of any travel advisories warning against travel to Phuket.

“Of course we are all very concerned about the situation in the Deep South, especially because in the last bombings they were really targeting tourist destinations.”

“Hotel managers needs to be very open with customers at times like this, giving them as much information as possible so that they can make up their own minds,” he said, adding that the hotel and put out copies of how the coup developed and distributed to all guest rooms.

“It’s coup number 19 over the past 70 years, so it’s not the first time we have had it – so let’s hope for the best,” he said.

Rudi Scherb, General Manager of the Movenpick Resort & Spa Karon Beach, told the Gazette that he has little fear that yesterday’s coup d’etat will affect tourism in Phuket.

“[Movenpick] believes that this is a ‘family affair’, that is, it affects Thailand’s politics only,” said Mr Scherb.

“We, those in the Thai tourism industry, have been fortunate to have a very good tourism authority in Thailand – as well as holiday wholesalers – who have been able to keep politics separate from tourism.

“Phuket is fortunate to have direct flights from other destinations that bypass, obviously, Bangkok so any effect – even though the airport in Bangkok is open and functioning normally – would be minimal,” he added.

Mr Scherb, who has worked in Thailand for four years, sounded only one note of concern. “As long as the travel advisories [issued by the foreign offices of other countries] are responsible and don’t get the situation out of proportion, then we should be ok.

“Anyway, if you ask people in Phuket what’s going on [in the rest of Thailand], they don’t know because they don’t read the newspapers – and we’d like to keep it that way; they are on vacation, after all,” he commented.

“My feeling is that most tourists [in Phuket] won’t really know what’s happening 90 minutes flying time from Phuket. It’s ‘business as usual’, and, as long as it stays a family affair, tourists won’t be affected.”

Bill Barnett, Managing Director of C9 Hotelworks, said that it was business as usual at his firm, which is overseeing development of several mixed-use residential and hotel projects on the island for overseas investors, including LaSalle Investment Management and Kingdom Hotel Investments out of Dubai.

“We’ve spoken to all to our overseas clients today, and they are all staying the course. These guys are used to this – they understand the climate and see the big picture. There have been no glitches. People aren’t calling in and questioning their investments…We have a number of projects that are at critical decision-making stages and there have been no glitches so far. Some of them have even said that what is going on might be a good thing. For business its a bit of a non-event, but it’s a media feeding-frenzy. It’s Thailand today, Iraq tomorrow, Lebanon the next day.

“Most people who are buying residential property in Phuket are Asia-friendly…I think the basic attitude is that the situation is one of short-term pain for long-term gain,” he said.

“The only question people raise, and rightly so, is that if there is a change in government what is the new government’s policy going to be towards foreign investment. Is it going to be pro-business or not. But it’s still early.”

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Thailand

Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chachoengsao join UNESCO’s learning cities

Caitlin Ashworth

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Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chachoengsao join UNESCO’s learning cities | The Thaiger
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3 cities in Thailand recently joined UNESCO’s membership of so called “learning cities” which are said to promote “lifelong learning” and sustainable development. Chachoengsao, Chiang Mai and Phuket joined the UNESCO’s Global Network of Learning Cities. Altogether, 55 cities from 27 countries, adding up to 230 cities in 64 countries around the world, according to UNESCO.

“These cities are outstanding examples of how lifelong learning can become a reality at local level. They have proven that effective lifelong learning policies and practices can support the development of inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and contribute to the 2030 Agenda.”

The UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning David Atchoarena says the recent new members have shown that they can make “lifelong learning a reality,” even after enduring the pandemic.

“With unprecedented urgency, the Covid-19-19 pandemic has underlined the necessity to build more resilient education systems for the future. With more than half of humanity living in urban areas, cities must be at the centre of this undertaking.”

David says he hopes it will inspire other cities in Thailand to follow.

“I very much hope that we will see many other cities from Thailand joining the network and working on providing lifelong learning opportunities for all to ensure a sustainable and peaceful future.”

The mayor of Chachoengsao, Kolayuth Chaisang, says his goal is to provide “effective education, thoroughly and equally to all citizens.” According to the Bangkok Post, the city is a key urban centre both economically and culturally.

The mayor of Chiang Mai, Tussanai Buranupakorn, says he wants to revitalise the city, while also maintaining the cultural significance. The city has a number of educational institutes, which goes along with UNESCO’s learning city principles.

Phuket is a hub of sustainable creativity, according to the Bangkok Post. The mayor of Phuket, Somjai Suwansupana, says he wants to preserve the city’s “identity, local wisdom assets and the charm of our multiculturalism.”

SOURCES: UNESCO |Bangkok Post

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Phuket

Newborn baby found on bench in Phuket

Caitlin Ashworth

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Newborn baby found on bench in Phuket | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Siangtai/Newshawk Phuket

A newborn baby was found on a bench at a neighborhood by Phuket’s Patong Road. The baby boy was wrapped in cloth and left inside a reusable shopping bag. The bag also had a bottle of milk, diapers and clothing.

A woman walking by early in the morning heard the baby crying. She followed the cries and found the baby on the bench. She called police and calmed the baby, feeding him milk that was left in the bag.

Police took the baby to the Patong Hospital. The baby, about a week old, is in good health, police say.

“Police and rescue workers together rushed to the scene and called Patong Hospital to have a medical team meet us there … This baby is healthy and does not appear to have suffered any injuries. He is now safe and being cared for at Patong Hospital.”

Police are reviewing surveillance camera footage to see if they can track down the mother, or whoever left the baby behind.

Newborn baby found on bench in Phuket | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: Phuket News

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Visa

Phuket Immigration handing out ‘conditional’ 14 day visas, pending investigations

The Thaiger

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Phuket Immigration handing out ‘conditional’ 14 day visas, pending investigations | The Thaiger

Confusion reigns. It was predictable and many people, despite months of warnings, have left their visa extensions to the last minute. Meanwhile Thai immigration don’t appear to be making the process easy as The Thaiger has received multiple comments from foreigners visiting the various immigration offices around the country and encountering ‘local’ applications of the published guidelines and, in some cases, demands for additional paperwork.

A note to The Thaiger, we won’t publish the person’s name, from Phuket where a person applying for an extension to their visa has been given something less than the 30 days promised by the government.

“On Monday Phuket Immigration was only giving 14 day ‘conditional’ VISA extensions from the date of application, not from September 26. They announced this was to allow time to “investigate and verify” the need for the extension.

So basically we paid 1900 baht for a 14 day extension. After announcing this many people left as many que numbers were called and nobody came up. They said if that were the case they would come back later in the week.

So we have to go back on October 5 (or a few days later is ok they announced) to see if we’re approved for the 30 day extension from September 26. If not we would be immediately “overstaying” at 500 baht/day.

Thank you
C

Another writer, speaking about the same matter, said that they were still being charged the non-refundable 1900 baht fee for the 2 week extension….

“They still collected the non refundable 1900 baht fee.”

Yesterday a person, who had been living in Bangkok under the auspices of the visa amnesty on a lapsed Non Immigrant B (Business) visa, ended up visiting three different offices to get his paperwork sorted out. This is after first contacting immigration by phone to confirm the particular office to attend. He had a letter from the US Embassy explaining that he would be unable to return to the US at this stage due to lack of flights and the current Covid-19 situation in the US. He made an appointment online, as instructed, and it still didn’t go very smoothly.

The instructions he received….

If your Visa was cancelled during the Covid-19 crisis, and you are currently under the amnesty grace period set to expire September 26, you will need to schedule an appointment online to queue in with the Immigration Division 1 at Muang Thong Thani (near Don Mueang Airport). You will need…
  • Online appointment with Immigration Division 1
  • Passport
  • TM 6 Departure Card
  • 1,900 Baht fee for short term extension
  • Letter from embassy specifically stating inability to leave Thailand due to lack of repatriation flights and or a high risk of contracting Covid-19 in one’s home nation.
  • US Embassy letter request can be made online here
  • Portrait photo to affix to short term extension application 3.5 cm x 4.5 cm in dimension

After going to Counter K and Counter J (2 separate buildings), he ended up being asked to go to the Chaeng Wattana office instead, and then was shuffled off to yet another office. Additional paperwork was also requested, beyond what had been asked for. After nearly a full day he ended up with a visa stamp for a 30 day extension in his visa.

He also noted that there is NO ATM around the Mueang Thong Thani immigration offices and our reader had to take a 60 baht motorcycle taxi ride to get cash.

Probably worse, he said that the Immigration officials (clearly overworked at this time), were “extremely rude” and that the facilities (apparently temporary) are “less-than-adequate”, especially the Counter K, which was basically a parking garage with seats… no fans.

Additionally, contrary to the clear advice on the Thai Immigration website, most people getting their extensions were from the date of their visit and NOT the end of the September 26 amnesty.

Phuket Immigration handing out 'conditional' 14 day visas, pending investigations | News by The Thaiger

The moral of this tiny microcosm of stories is that it’s probably the busiest week for Thai immigration in history. The officials will be stressed and stretched, there will be long queues and there will be confusion. We should also mention that we’ve had a few foreigners contact us saying that things went very smoothly for their extensions, so well done to all concerned in those examples!

Be prepared, take ALL your paperwork, expect to asked to produce more evidence, make sure you have all your photos and copies of your passport, TM 6 departure card, plus filled-in applications before you head to the Immigration offices.

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