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Interior Minister in snap visit to Patong

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: Recently appointed Minister of Interior Wan Muhamad Nor Matha last night made an impromptu three-hour inspection tour of Patong and stayed at the Royal Paradise Hotel. The minister made his first public appearance in Phuket earlier in the day at a meeting of about 100 police and government officers and community leaders at Phuket Provincial Hall. K. Wan Nor explained that he decided to visit Phuket, and other southern provinces, while on a recent visit to his parents in Yala. “I came to support and encourage the Governor of Phuket and the officers here to work 100% on the situation right now because Phuket is an important province of Thailand. “Also, as the new Interior Minister, I wanted to see the situation in Phuket first-hand,” he added. Downplaying Phuket’s potential as a terrorist target, he said, “We cannot compare what has happened in Bali or Russia because those places have different people and specific problems. We don’t have problems of internal conflict or conflict with another country. “We have had a long-standing policy of friendly relations with every country, including the USA, China, Japan and Sri Lanka, and I believe that every country wants to be friends with Thailand,” he said. However, K. Wan Nor said that even if the authorities were certain that nothing would happen, they should not be negligent, especially since recent events abroad, and that they must keep up to date with the latest developments. “Phuket is not just a regional tourist destination; it is an international one. If something [adversely] affects tourism here, it would be very difficult to recover from, even if it were only rumors,” he said. At about 10 pm, K. Wan Nor began a three-hour tour of Patong, including bar beers and discotheques, and spoke to local vendors, local residents and tourists. He was accompanied by an entourage of about 30 high-ranking officials, with a strong police presence visible on the street. Standing on Thaweewong Rd late last night, he said, “I have [just] spoken with tourists from Australia, Sweden and Denmark. “Most of them said they were enjoying their stay even though their friends and families back home had told them about their governments’ warnings,” he said. “They believe they are safe in Phuket.” Meanwhile, Phuket Governor CEO Pongpayome Vasaputi has sent details of Phuket’s upgraded security to Thai embassies and the national and international press via email. In a message posted on the Internet he also said, “We have carried out utmost security measurements and do our best to ensure visitors’ safety without affecting the congenial atmosphere.” Under the headline “Phuket Steps Up Security for Tourists” the online site of Phuket Provincial Office [ https://www.phuket.go.th ] deals with the international concern and itemizes the local response. The governor said that every country had the right to warn their nationals about global situations. However, he agreed with the Thai Government that Thailand is not a target for any international terrorist attack.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Phuket chef hands out over 2,000 free meals

Jack Burton

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Phuket chef hands out over 2,000 free meals | The Thaiger

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen many heartwarming outpourings of charity, with a lot of businesses, both Thai and foreign, handing out free meals and essential goods to those affected by the crisis. The southern province of Phuket is no exception, with many pubs and restaurants joining in. But people in the island’s Bang Tao district might be surprised to learn that their meals were prepared not only by a career chef, but a student and disciple of legendary Chef Paul Bocuse.

Pablo Blattman, owner of Dedos restaurant, and his crew hand out more than 160 free meals a day and have now donated well over 2,500 meals to the community. Blattmann, born and raised in La Paz, Bolivia, by a Swiss mother and Bolivian father, says the two cultures gave him insight in different universes of flavours.

At a time when most neighbouring restaurants are shuttered (or crippled by the ban on alcohol sales), Blattman says he wants to “give something back to the community which has given me so much.”

Phuket chef hands out over 2,000 free meals | News by The Thaiger

Although the crisis means Blattman must temporarily close the restaurant (again) at the end of May, he intends to go on giving back to the community.

“Our commitment to our community is still here, and we will keep our efforts up, but in a different way: dry food, going to workers’ camps, going upcountry… be assured that every penny donated will reach people in need. We are keeping a strict accounting on all our expenses and any donor is welcome to check it.”

Those wishing to support Dedos’s charitable efforts may visit its Facebook page.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

2 new cases of Covid-19 reported in Thailand with one additional death (May 25)

Anukul

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2 new cases of Covid-19 reported in Thailand with one additional death (May 25) | The Thaiger
FILE PHOTO: Bangkok.com

Today the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration announced 2 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Thailand with 1 additional death. The 2 new cases consist of 1 imported case, a Thai woman repatriated from Russia last Wednesday who is currently under state quarantine in Chon Buri province.

The other is a 49 year old Chinese citizen, the wife of an Italian who has been confirmed infected. She travelled from China to Phuket on March 9 and remained on the island due to the lockdown. She lives in Cherngtalay with her husband and 3 children aged 15, 10 and 7. She shows no symptoms at this stage. Cherngtalay is the tambon bordering Bang Tao, a hotzone for new cases during April and early May.

Thailand’s total number of confirmed cases is now 3,042 with 57 deaths since the outbreak began in January. 2,928 of those have fully recovered and been released from hospital, with an additional 7 new discharges overnight.

Only 57 people remain under medical care for the disease nationwide, and the recovery rate is 96%.

The additional death was a 68 year old Thai woman in Chumphon, southern Thailand. She was reported to have “many personal health issues and the cause of death was due to failure in her lungs and an infection in her bloodstream.”

“She had been in the hospital fighting Covid-19 for about a month and she finally passed away yesterday, minutes after midnight.”

Chon Buri province has had no new confirmed cases in 31 days, with Pattaya 10 days further ahead with no new confirmed cases for 41 days.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post | The Pattaya News

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Tourism

Phuket’s lost summer – looking to 2021 for tourism recovery

The Thaiger

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Phuket’s lost summer – looking to 2021 for tourism recovery | The Thaiger
PHOTO: "Now is the summer of our discontent" - Phuket People's Voice

In a solemn recognition of the reality of Phuket’s stalled tourist industry, a spokesperson for the southern chapter of the Thai Hotels Association is saying most of the west coast hotels are unlikely to reopen until the last quarter of this year. And that’s just the start of the problems for the popular island beach resort.

For now, Phuket’s International Airport remains closed to scheduled flights, and the Tha Chatchai road checkpoint at the top of the island is heavily curating who comes in and out with red-tape and paperwork. Nationally, the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand has already banned international travel into Thailand until at least the end of June – it could be extended further.

Phuket’s issue, as an economy that revolves almost completely around tourism, is that, even if it throws open the immigration gates at the airport and the doors of its almost 100,000 hotel and accommodation rooms, there are few options for incoming tourists at this stage. Where will they come from? Europe (including the UK), the US and now South America, are mired in their own pandemic outbreaks, and whilst trying to reopen their economies, are facing imminent second waves of Covid-19. It’s unlikely the risk-averse Thais will willingly welcome ‘at risk’ countries back any time soon.

It’s only a few regional customers that are likely to be given approval to fly their businesspeople and tourists into Thailand anytime soon, but even that is going to be a trickle at best, at least in the short to medium term. Even these tourist markets have seen their economies hit hard by the pandemic and will be less likely to prioritise travel at this early stage – China, Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore.

Whilst other parts of Thailand have opportunities to reopen their businesses – manufacture, agriculture, IT, and large chunks of populations visit shops and general trading – Phuket has little of that. Some 50,000+ of the island’s 450,000 permanent population have already departed the island, either before the borders were closed in mid-March, or as soon as they were able to return to their provinces when the road border re-opened for repatriating people at the start of May.

Even survey respondents, testing the opportunities for the island to reopen to domestic traffic to kick-start the stalled tourist economy, have shown little interest in heading to Phuket as the rest of Thailand has, well frankly, more important things to worry about. Since Phuket’s own lockdown restrictions have been lifted, early ‘staycation’ promotions, attracting locals for a bit of post-lockdown leisure, have fallen flat. For now, Phuket’s beaches remain closed anyway.

c9hotelworks‘ Bill Barnett, says “Phuket’s hardest yards for tourism are still in front of us and the loss of jobs will be enormous. No candy coating here.”

“Hotel operators and owners, are now reassessing the need for a quick return to reopen and from our talks, many are looking at pushing back to October or even later given the economics simply do not add up.”

“Even the domestic thrust of staycations are unlikely to provide the traction larger hotels need to scale up. Domestic business for island hotels on a broad basis is sub 10% of the market mix. For smaller hotels, targeting domestic is fishing where the fish are, and makes absolute sense.”

Suksit Suvunditkul, CEO of Deevana Hotels and the vice-president of the Thai Hotels Association southern chapter, says that hotels along the beach that target international guests will reopen in September at the earliest. Speaking to Bangkok Post, he says that the situation remains unpredictable.

“….but as July and August are low season, resuming operations is not worth the effort while guest demand is still weak. With some hotels not reopening until the fourth quarter, they cannot expect to profit.”

Forecasts from the Tourism Authority of Thailand say that the rest of 2020 will be mostly limited to domestic tourism, “with the Asian market starting to recover at the beginning of next year and the European market to follow much later”.

But, for now, hotels are still shuttered as management wait in hope for signs that they are, firstly, allowed to reopen and, secondly, the barriers are removed to international travel. The other main hurdle is the paperwork or restriction that will be imposed on inbound tourists. It’s hard to imagine tourists will be wanting to pack their flowery shirts, hats and suncream to end up having to submit long lists of paperwork and health checks before they arrive.

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