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Mandatory travel insurance tabled in Phuket

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Mandatory travel insurance tabled in Phuket | The Thaiger

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



Read more headlines, reports & breaking news in Phuket. Or catch up on your Thailand news.

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

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Entertainment

Top 10 things to do in Phuket during the wet season

Tim Newton

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Top 10 things to do in Phuket during the wet season | The Thaiger

There’s a bit of rain around. No worries. It’s rainy season and the island looks a lot better when it’s all green and the dams are filling. Try something on our instant list of the ten things you can do when it’s wet and raining in Phuket. 

So here is our completely random Top 10 things to do whilst it’s wet and raining in Phuket.

1. Siam Niramit

One of the best shows on the island. There’s pre-show ‘walk around’ displays where you can see Muay Thai matches, traditional Thai villages and elephant shows (you can choose not to attend these if you’re ethically sensitive about animal shows). Then it’s into the theatre for an astonishing show about Thai culture and history which will blow your mind. For everyone in the family.

I’ve been 20 or more times – always take tourist friends there for a lesson in Thailand 1.0. Almost impossible to explain what you’ll see but, believe me, it’s worth the price. There’s also a mega-international buffet available before the show. Take your appetite. Even when it’s wet or raining, the show is always on – they cleverly adapt the schedule to fit around the rain.

Top 10 things to do in Phuket during the wet season | News by The Thaiger

2. Simon Star Cabaret

There’s the famous Simon Cabaret in Patong – there is also the companion show in Samkong – better parking and a newer theatre but much the same show. “The prettiest girls in Asia” they say. Completely family friendly but be prepared for a few questions after the show if you take the kids. Also, if you want to get a picture with one of the performers after the show you’ll need to hand over 100 Baht or so for the pleasure. The shows are bright, spectacular, fun and a lot of fun. You’ll forget about the rain and wet outside. In the middle of the island adjacent to the Samkong intersection is the Aphrodite Show, in the same vein as the Simon Star shows.

Top 10 things to do in Phuket during the wet season | News by The Thaiger

3. Jungceylon and Central Shopping Centres

Head to one of the island’s big international shopping centres for some retail therapy if there’s a bit of rain outside.

There’s Central Festival and the adjoining Central Floresta in the middle of the island, Jungceylon and Central (over the road) in Patong.

Both have plenty of label brands and excellent food options. There are also excellent cinemas at both locations (Jungceylon and Central Festival) where tickets will probably cost you a fraction of what you pay in your home country (unless you come from Nigeria where it’s quite cheap I hear). Cost around 230 baht+ unless you go on cheap-Wednesday when the tickets are half-price.

Top 10 things to do in Phuket during the wet season | News by The Thaiger

4. Elephant Sanctuary

It has been much publicised that riding the incredibly intelligent elephants is cruel. Be part of the change and visit one of the best elephant sanctuarys in Thailand. Education is power, help spread the word that it is no longer acceptable to jump on the saddle. Yes it is an outdoor activity, but you are going to get wet anyway when you wash the elephants so get out there and play with the elephants.

The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary is a home for retired working elephants, set amongst three camps in remote sections of Phuket. It doesn’t matter if it’s wet and raining in Phuket – elephants love the wet!

There are a number of better, more elephant-friendly, alternatives around Phuket these days, all with the elephant’s welfare as paramount. Also the Elephant Retirement Park, Phuket HERE.

Top 10 things to do in Phuket during the wet season | News by The Thaiger

5. Have a Thai massage or Spa treatment

You deserve it. There’s plenty of alternatives and style of massage all over the island, well, all over Thailand. A traditional Thai massage – firm, medium or light – will be an experience you’ll always remember. Don’t ask for firm unless you’re prepared for some PAIN! Despite the publicity, most massages don’t include a happy ending. Unless you’re in Patong, you’re probably not going to get that ‘optional extra’.

There are also plenty of spas for all sorts of additional indulgences. Many of the bigger international hotels have excellent spas for ‘walk-in’ customers. Leave the rain and wet outside and enjoy.

Top 10 things to do in Phuket during the wet season | News by The Thaiger

6. Go for a walk on the beach

It’s still warm, the beaches are still amazing, the monsoonal air is fresh off the Andaman Sea and you can enjoy the drama of nature doing what it does. Also, be amazed at the people who have paid their hard-earned money to visit Phuket and, whether it’s raining or not, are determined to go to the beach. And they do, sometimes with tragic consequences. Always obey the flags on the beach.

Red means DON’T GO SWIMMING. Rain, sunshine, wet… the beaches are always amazing.

Top 10 things to do in Phuket during the wet season | News by The Thaiger

7. Bowling

There’s bowling alleys at Big C in Kathu and Jungceylon in Patong. They’re really inexpensive and a great escape for a few hours. Strike or no strike you’ll always look like a star in those rental bowling shoes (who have been worn by thousands of people before you… hmmmm). BYO socks. Mums and dads, there’s usually alcohol served  at the premises so you can cope with the sheer boredom of watching all those others having fun.

Top 10 things to do in Phuket during the wet season | News by The Thaiger

8. Phuket Aquarium

Located in the very south of the island at Panwa Beach the Phuket Aquarium is an excellent spot to escape the weather and learn about the underwater world around Phuket. It is also safe for the children to roam inside and let them discover the seahorses, turtles and deep sea creatures. Good for a couple of hours, try and plan your trip outside of school pick up and drop off times as the journey South can be a long one.

There’s also a new international-standard aquarium, ‘Aquaria’, about to open at Central Floresta in the middle of the island.

Top 10 things to do in Phuket during the wet season | News by The Thaiger

9. Phuket Trick Eye Museum

We love this place. A few hours of optical illusions and laughs. Great for the kids and the big kids as well. Located in the middle of Phuket Town. Take your camera or your mobile phone. An interesting back-story to the franchise of Trick Eye museums about a South Korean artist… you’ll learn more about it when you go there. Perfect for a Phuket rainy day.

Top 10 things to do in Phuket during the wet season | News by The Thaiger

10. A Thai cooking class

Admit it, we all talk about taking Thai cooking class but few of us do. Hey, why bother with all that pesky preparation, cooking and doing the dishes when we can get magnificent street food for 50 baht, almost anywhere (except Patong where you’ll pay a bit more). Most of the larger hotels all have their own Thai cooking lessons. But for the best of the best head to the Blue Elephant Restaurant right on the border of Old Phuket Town for a memorable experience. The Sino-Portuguese building used to be the old Governor’s residence

Top 10 things to do in Phuket during the wet season | News by The Thaiger

So get out and enjoy Phuket, whether it’s sunny, wet or raining. Even if it is raining, remember the rain is warm!

 

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Hot News

UPDATE: 3,000 baht Phuket van fare for Australians tourists “all a misunderstanding”

The Thaiger

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UPDATE: 3,000 baht Phuket van fare for Australians tourists “all a misunderstanding” | The Thaiger

As a follow up of the complaint about an overcharged van fare of 3,000 baht from Phuket International Airport to Kata by two Australians, a meeting was held yesterday between the driver, the tourists and a representative from the Phuket Land Transport Office.

They agreed, in the end, that it was all “a misunderstanding”.

The complaint about the expensive fare went viral an even got to the desk of the Thai PM. PM Prayut Chan O-cha ordered all departments involved to investigate and prevent the overcharging of taxi and van fares in the future.

(The Thaiger notes that Phuket’s expats and tourists have heard this rhetoric for decades with ZERO advances in the systemic problems)

Meanwhile, a meeting was held at the Karon Police Station, where the media were barred from attending. Following the discussions, the Phuket Vice Governor, Supot Rodruang Na Nongkhai, reported that after investigating the story from the two Australian tourists, it appears that they negotiated the taxi rate at the airport.

Naruemon Jampathong was the tout in the negotiations, who approached them in the arrivals hall and called the van driven by Poompat Chankaew to take the pair to Kata. The Vice Governor explained that the tourists and the taxi driver told police different stories regarding the price. The tourists said they were offered at 3,000 baht ride while the van driver said he agreed on 2,000 baht (which is still 400 baht above the advertised and signed price for a private van hire for the journey).

However, Naruemon was found guilty of entering the airport without a permit and the AoT has fined him 2,000 baht for this transgression.

Regarding the amount for the van fare, there were further investigation as the two sides have offered conflicting stories.

He noted that the PM emphasised to make justice for this case, especially to the Australian tourists and also to prevent these types of incidents in the future. The taxi driver told the media that, as soon as he was made aware of the controversy, he rushed to Karon Police Station to report in person to the police that he only charged them 2,000 baht, which was the negotiated price and the passengers were willing to pay as they didn’t want to wait for the van to be filled up (with other paying passengers – usually charged 200 baht each, as advertised and signed around the arrivals area).

He insisted there was no mention of a 3,000 baht fare. However, in the end, police called the tourists and the driver for another round of talks. This time, according to police, both sides agreed that they negotiated for a 2,000 baht fare and the complaint was “all a misunderstanding”.

The taxi driver was taken by police to the airport to pay the fine for picking up passengers at the airport without a permit.

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Crime

British expat arrested over dog attack in Phuket. 15 year old dog ‘ok’.

The Thaiger

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British expat arrested over dog attack in Phuket. 15 year old dog ‘ok’. | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Shop surveillance footage of the attack

A British expat, Mervyn “Merv” Harding, has now been charged over his attack on a 15 year old dog outside a massage shop in southern Phuket on Tuesday. CCTV footage caught the man parking his motorbike, pulling a metal rod from under the bike seat and then repeatedly beating the animal as it tried to run away.

43 year old Harding, from Plymouth in the UK, will now have to remain in custody after being refused bail at a hearing at the Phuket Provincial Court this morning. He turned himself into police and admitted to beating the dog in the southern Phuket town of Nai Harn.

Harding has admitted one charge of animal cruelty, one charge of trespassing and one charge of destroying property.

The shopowner, Yupaporn Keawduangdee, came out from the back of the shop to find her dog cowering on the ground with blood coming from its mouth. Tuesday was a Buddhist holiday in Thailand.

“Instead of going to the temple, I have to go to the police station.”

The old dog was a rescue pet that Yupaporn rescued following the Phuket tsunami in 2004 when he was only a puppy.

“He has been loyal and good to everyone. Now he’s old and weak and doesn’t deserve this in his final days.”

British expat arrested over dog attack in Phuket. 15 year old dog 'ok'. | News by The Thaiger

Shop and dog owner Yupaporn Keawduangdee

SOURCES: twnews.co.uk | mirror.co.uk

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