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Immigration Dept: corruption exposed

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: A major investigation has been launched into the activities of Immigration officers in Patong after the seizure of some 40 passports in Haad Yai in recent days. The passports were on their way back from Malaysia after being sent for “visa run” renewals and are now in the possession of the Immigration Department in Bangkok. Among those whose passports were seized was an American tourist who spoke with the Gazette on condition of anonymity. He said, “I came here on a 30-day visa issued at the airport. I went to Immigration in Patong to see if I could extend my visa to stay longer. They said that they could take my passport down to Malaysia and get it stamped for another 30 days. The fee was 2,500 baht.” He stressed that the Immigration officer he spoke with, whom he named as Somchai, gave him the impression that this was the correct way to extend a visa. “They gave me no indication that this was corrupt. They were smiling and it seemed very much a standard procedure. “I went there on Monday and they told me that the big boss from Bangkok had taken the passports to the capital. They said their boss, in Patong, went to try and get the passports back, but on Tuesday they said that I had to go to Bangkok myself to get my passport back.” Somchai, he said, had generously given him a refund out of his own pocket – plus 200 baht a day for 18 days [the overstay fee]. “I asked him, ‘What about my airfare to Bangkok and the cost of the hotel?’ In the end he gave me a total of about 9,500 baht out of his wallet as compensation.” The American said that Somchai, who was out of uniform and met him in a back room of the Patong Immigration Department, looked “very worried”. He added, “The whole [atmosphere in the] office was different from a couple weeks ago.” He then contacted the US Embassy in Bangkok, who had already been notified of the situation and who told him that he must go to Bangkok to retrieve his passport from the Immigration Department there, where he would also have to answer questions. Pol Col Apirak Hongtong, Superintendent of the Phuket Immigration Police, confirmed the crackdown on the longstanding illegal issuance of visas. “I’ve known about it for a long time,” he said. “And I’ve looked into the matter and issued orders from time to time, but there are still some officers who resisted. But we’ve taken action. We haven’t ignored it. “We have already transferred the officers out of Patong and are waiting for further orders from the Commissioner for Immigration. The passports are at the Immigration Department in Bangkok. The foreigners are going up to Bangkok to testify and we are awaiting the results. “As for our officers, we have taken disciplinary action. If there is any evidence that they are involved in either civil or criminal offences, we will take further action.” The Gazette has received numerous complaints over the years from readers who found it impossible to obtain correctly-issued visas. This was because Immigration officers were more interested in issuing illegal visas, in return for bribes, than legitimate ones, the applicants said. A local foreign resident contacted by the Gazette this afternoon noted that the illicit commercial activities of some of Phuket Immigration Department’s “marketing officers” had led to formation of feeder businesses. These specialize in illegal “visa services” that do not require long-stay tourists and resident foreigners to make visa renewal trips out of Thailand.

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

Tourism

The road less travelled – trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint

The Thaiger

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The road less travelled – trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | The Thaiger

There are two well known ways to get from Kathu to Kalim or Kamala – one is across the Patong Hill, and the other is much longer, through Srisoonthorn and along the coastal road from Surin the Kamala (very scenic too).

But there’s also another way. Also very scenic but will take you about 2 hours through dense forest although there is a well-worn walking track. The track will take you from Kathu up to the Kalim Viewpoint. From here you can head back to Kathu along a different path, or down into Kalim, near Patong.

Starting about halfway down Soi Namtok in Kathu, you head up a nondescript road past the Flying Hanuman zipline attraction, although there’s no sign at the entrance to the soi (below). About the first kilometre is paved but then becomes increasingly ‘agricultural’ as you get higher into the hills, heading towards the Kalim Viewpoint. There’s also a small temple on the way up.

The road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: The start of the trek, a small soi off Soi Namtok – Google Maps

It will take around 2 hours to trek up to the Kalim Viewpoint. The walking is quite strenuous and you’ll need to be wearing the right shoes and take plenty of water – there’s no 7/11s on the way! As you get nearer the top, to the viewpoint, the track becomes less drivable although the track is still quite open and easy to follow. If you’re feeling a bit lazy you can take a motorbike about halfway up the road until you’ll need to proceed on foot from there.

From the Kalim Viewpoint you can see across Kalim to Patong Bay and the land that stretches along the bay south of Patong Beach. From the top you can either make your way down to Kalim or another exit along the Kalim-Kamala Road, just near the Iguana Beach Club.

You can also head back another way to Kathu, a longer return track that skirts around the top of the Kathu Waterfall. A lot of that track gets very narrow and parts of it are up and down the hills, some of it very steep.

The views are amazing and you get to see a vast swathe of Phuket, still very close to popular locations like Patong, Kamala and Kathu, but untouched by any civilisation.

You’ll need to be in reasonable health to take on the trip but, just to go up to the Kalim Viewpoint and back, or down into Kalim, should take around 5 hours in total. On a scale of 1 – 5 for difficulty, we’d rate it a 3. An easy trek for experienced people but will need a bit of planning if you’re not an experienced trekker.

Even on a hazy day, as it was today, the views were amazing. But best to start off early morning when the weather is cooler. Well worth the time for the views and the opportunity to see more of Phuket, away from the bars and beaches.

Thanks to BT for the pics and information.

The road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The Thaiger

The road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The ThaigerThe road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The Thaiger

The road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The Thaiger

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Phuket

Police say Phuket school won’t be charged for employing foreign teachers without a work permit

Caitlin Ashworth

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Police say Phuket school won’t be charged for employing foreign teachers without a work permit | The Thaiger
FILE PHOTO

An international school in Phuket is not facing charges for employing foreign teachers without a work permit, police told the Phuket News. Back in November, 2 British nationals were arrested at the Palm House International School in Rawai in a raid by Phuket Immigration officers, acting on a tip that teachers were working at the school without a work permit.

The case was handed over to the Chalong Police. The department was also requested to investigate the school for suspected illegal hiring practices. When pressed by Phuket News reporters, the Chalong Police Chief Sarawut Chuprasit said the school officials are not facing any charges for employing the teachers illegally, without a work permit, and referred reporters to the provincial prosecutor.

“I have no reason to press any charge against the school at all. It is not right to accuse the school.”

Many schools in Thailand, especially international schools, obtain work permits for foreign teachers and even pay the fees. It’s also fairly common for foreign teachers to work without the proper documents, especially during the pandemic where travel restrictions make border runs nearly impossible.

Phuket News say police will not release the names of the 2 British teachers and will not give any additional information. They add that the provincial prosecutor’s office will also not release information without a police case number or suspects’ names. In a previous report, Phuket Immigration Deputy Chief also declined to identify the British nationals by name or age.

“Their visa status does not allow them to work or perform any form of business. They were arrested as they are suspected of working without a work permit.”

SOURCE: Phuket News

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Phuket

Phuket health chief urges “red zone” travellers to abide by quarantine measures

Caitlin Ashworth

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Phuket health chief urges “red zone” travellers to abide by quarantine measures | The Thaiger
PHOTO: National News Bureau of Thailand

With Phuket’s new disease control measures requiring those travelling from high risk areas to quarantine, the province’s public health chief is now saying those at alternative state quarantine hotels won’t be locked up in their rooms throughout their 14 day stay in isolation. He says guests can wander through certain areas of the hotel to have meals and do other activities.

Those travelling from “red zone” provinces are required to self-quarantine at a hotel or at their home for 14 days. People from areas classified as the “highest risk,” including Samut Sakhon, Chonburi, Rayong, Chanthaburi and Trat, must quarantine and undergo a Covid-19 swab test.

The public health chief Thanit Sermkaew says there will be harsh penalties for anyone who violates the new measures and urges travellers to stay at their quarantine location, home or hotel, for 14 days. People who violate the order can be punished under the Disease Control Act, either under Section 51, which carries a fine up to 20,000 baht, or under Section 52, which carries up to a year in jail and a fine up to 100,000 baht.

“It would be great if visitors from the ‘red zone’ areas stay in their hotels, so we are asking for their cooperation. They do not need to stay only in their room. They are able to do activities within the hotel, such as having meals, swimming, yoga and other activities… Please do not go outside the hotel. That would be a good preventative measure in Phuket province.”

Phuket Vice Governor Pichet Panaphong says hotels should “request” that their guests stay inside the hotel.

“Phuket officials have asked for the cooperation from operators to record the travel moments of guests before they arrived at the hotel and to request that their guests stay within the hotel area only, not to go outside of the hotel area.”

People who completed quarantine in Bangkok and tested negative for Covid-19 do not need to quarantine in Phuket as long as they travel directly to the island immediately after being released.

SOURCE: Phuket News

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