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Mandatory travel insurance tabled in Phuket

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: The Phuket Governor vowed to raise tourist travel insurance issues to those capable of making changes to national legislation following the honorary consul meeting yesterday (story here).

“If a tourist is not covered by insurance in their home country, they are setting themselves up for a difficult situation if they get injured while on holiday here,” said Phuket Governor Chamroen Tipayapongtada. “This is a very important issue, which I will raise with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Tourism and Sports.”

The topic of travel insurance was tabled at the meeting yesterday by Pornphan Sittichaivijit, the Royal Norwegian honorary consul.

“Travel insurance is one issue that is getting worse and worse, because Phuket has no way to deal with those who are unable to pay their hospital bills,” said Ms Pornphan.

The cost of treating uninsured tourists at Patong Hospital totals about one million baht every year. At Vachira Phuket Hospital, the total is about three million baht. In total, foreign tourists’ unpaid medical bills cost the country more than 200 million baht annually, explained Somsak Pureesrisak, Thailand’s Tourism and Sports minister in 2013.

In 2011, 15,000 tourists were treated at Patong Hospital alone. The number increased to 17,000 by 2012 and now the hospital serves more than 25,000 foreign patients.

However, from the cases we come across each year, only about 400 to 500 of these patients hold health insurance, explained Sirichai Silpa-archa, the director of Patong Hospital. The rest of them pay the medical fees out of pocket if they can. If they can’t, the facility is stuck with the bill.

Stories of fundraisers to cover the medical costs of friends and loved ones are not new to Phuket’s news pages. Dozens of stories roll in every year, and many more remain undocumented, about those travelling through Thailand who succumb to unfortunate circumstances and rack up enormous medical bills as doctors fight to save their lives.

One such example was New Zealander Sean Kenzie, who suffered extensive injuries after being knocked off his motorbike in Phuket. His medical bills spiraled out of control with essential lifesaving intervention costing nearly 400,000 baht (story here).

Authorities have made attempts in the past to promote travel insurance for tourists.

In 2013, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports was ready to implement a regulation to cut down on foreign tourists’ unpaid medical bills by imposing a compulsory travel insurance fee for all tourists entering Thailand. Such unpaid bills were putting a huge strain on cash-strapped public hospitals in major destinations, particularly Phuket, explained Dr Sirichai at the time.

Though the 500-baht on-arrival insurance scheme never came to fruition, it was recently picked up and dusted off in August this year.

Another such initiative was launched last year by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) in cooperation with four reputed Thai insurance companies: Muang Thai Insurance, Chao Phaya Insurance, Siam City Insurance and Krungthai Panich Insurance.

They started a special online insurance coverage scheme known as “Thailand Travel Shield”.

These travel insurance policies provide instant coverage – up to 1mn baht insurance coverage is provided for packages starting at 650 baht, and up to 2mn baht insurance coverage is provided for packages starting at 1,100 baht. The period of coverage ranges up to 60 days, but can also cover visitors making annual trips to Thailand (click here).

“Those who travel to Thailand will be required to buy travel insurance, which would cover accidents or an incident like the explosion at Erawan Shrine in Ratchaprasong area on 17 August… tourists only received compensation from the ministry and financial supports from associations,” Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, Tourism and Sports minister, told TTR Weekly.

However, Governor Chamroen explained that a simpler fix would be to require all tourists entering Thailand by air to have insurance before arriving.

“We need to have better coordination with the country of departure. Perhaps asking airlines to include insurance for foreigners booking tickets to Thailand would simplify the process. You would end up paying more, but you could save yourself form serious financial trouble,” Gov Chamroen said.

“Though making such changes is above my authority, I will do my best as the governor of Phuket to drive any necessary changes forward,” Gov Chamroen said. “I hope that I will have an update on this topic for next month’s meeting with the honorary consuls.”

— Chutharat Plerin

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Phuket

Phuket workshop helps residents cope with high stress brought on by the economic crisis

Caitlin Ashworth

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Phuket workshop helps residents cope with high stress brought on by the economic crisis | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook: ประชาสัมพันธ์ เทศบาลตำบลวิชิต

Hundreds of residents in Phuket’s Wichit subdistrict attended a workshop focused on reducing stress from to the pandemic-induced economic crisis. A psychologist was even on site to help those who had extreme mental stress and a Buddhist monk taught meditation techniques to reduce physiological effects of stress.

The event was planned in response to an online survey conducted by the municipality asking residents about how much stress they were experiencing from the economic climate. They found that some residents had serious stress issues brought on by the pandemic and financial problems, according to Wichit Mayor Kreetha Chotiwichphiphat.

“The loss of income due to the economic crisis brought on by the Covid-19 situation has resulted in some people in the area suffering serious stress, which can lead to serious mental health issues.”

Around 350 people attended the event. The mayor says it was the first step in caring for the residents’ mental health. Local officials plan to hold similar workshops in the future.

“It was a good opportunity for people to realise the importance of mental health and to learn techniques of how to deal with stress, which will help people to maintain their physical health and avoid developing mental health problems.”

SOURCE: Phuket News

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Phuket

Phuket’s Soi Dog Foundation opens Humane Education Centre at Mai Khao shelter

The Thaiger

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Phuket’s Soi Dog Foundation opens Humane Education Centre at Mai Khao shelter | The Thaiger

The Soi Dog Foundation has officially opened its Humane Education Centre, the first of its kind in Thailand dedicated to the welfare of stray animals. The centre, located at the Soi Dog shelter in northern Phuket, forms part of the foundation’s Humane Education program. Rolled out in 2017, the program sees a team visit Thai schools to teach the next generation the basic principles of animal welfare and promote empathetic attitudes towards both owned pets and free-roaming strays.

The program has reached a total of 15,058 students and 861 teachers to date. With a dedicated classroom as well as educational tools and resources now on site at the shelter, Soi Dog will be able to expand the programme and reach an even greater number of young minds.

Co-founder and president of Soi Dog Foundation International John Dalley said, “The cornerstones of what we do – what I believe very firmly are the answers to the stray dog problem throughout Asia – are large-scale sterilisation of stray dogs and cats and education of, particularly, the next generation.

“We see all the time the problems that are being caused through us not respecting the environment and not respecting the other animals with whom we share this planet. That’s why education is so important.”

John also thanked the supporters and donors who made the construction of the centre possible. After cutting the ribbon, the students filed into the brand-new facility for the very first on-site class – a fun and interactive hour of roleplaying, brainstorming and problem solving.

Humane Education Manager Nuttawut “Film” Kumngern. said… “We want to encourage kindness toward animals, especially free-roaming dogs and cats, and teach youngsters to be responsible pet owners. This will sustainably reduce animal cruelty and pet abandonment.”

“We hope to one day see animal welfare incorporated into the curriculum in Thai schools, and our education centre is a great start.”

Soi Dog is ready to welcome school groups from Phuket and other provinces to the centre which can accommodate up to 40 students at any one time. Schools interested in participating are encouraged to email film@soidog.org

Phuket's Soi Dog Foundation opens Humane Education Centre at Mai Khao shelter | News by The ThaigerPhuket's Soi Dog Foundation opens Humane Education Centre at Mai Khao shelter | News by The Thaiger

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International Schools

Police have yet to investigate illegal hiring of foreign teachers at international school in Phuket

The Thaiger

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Police have yet to investigate illegal hiring of foreign teachers at international school in Phuket | The Thaiger

Chalong police in Phuket say they have yet to start investigating the illegal hiring of foreign teachers at an international school in Rawai, south of the island. Palm House International School allegedly hired foreign teachers illegally in which 2 were arrested by Phuket Immigration police on November 4.

Somkiet Sarasin, the leading investigator of the case, says the 2 Brits were informed that police were processing a charge of working illegally in the country against them, in which both denied the charges. Somkiet says the 2 were released on bail, but did not confirm the amount of bail that was set by the police.

“They are still staying in Thailand. I am not worried. I have their passports. I am not available to explain [any details] because the investigation is still ongoing.”

“This is normal for an investigation when the suspects deny the charge against them. I have to check more information against their claims. This case will probably be concluded next month.”

However, the investigation has yet to begin, with Somkiet saying he has not even questioned the owner of the school, despite his claims the case would be finished next month.

“The investigation into the school will take time. The investigation into the two British people must be finished first.”

Such allegations of foreign teachers working illegally have recently been in the news after Sarasas Witaed Sainoi Pitiyakarn School, in the central province of Nonthaburi, saw 7 foreign teachers probed for being hired illegally. That school, along with others in its private network, made nationwide news after CCTV caught a Thai teacher hitting, pushing and dragging a young student in the classroom. Such widespread violence against students has long been a sad component of many Thai schools, in which some of the teachers are unqualified and unlicensed to teach, but are hired anyway.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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