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OPINION: TAT should do more for Phuket festival

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: The Vegetarian Festival ends this evening – not just here in Phuket, but also in other ethnic Chinese communities all over the country.

Phuket’s Chinese community rightfully takes great pride in their town being the birthplace of the festival in Thailand –  as well as the fact that Chinese communities in other provinces have followed suit.

The event is said to date back to Phuket’s tin-mining days, when a traveling Chinese opera company came down with a mysterious illness and managed to cure themselves by adhering to a strict vegetarian diet.

Impressed, Kathu residents adopted not only the vegetarian aspect, but also the variety of complex rituals related to the worship of the Nine Emperor Gods.

Over time, the festival began to develop its unique characteristics, evolving, with the help of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), into something visitors from all over the world came to find exotic, colorful, at times disturbing – but definitely something to write home about.

The festival also provides a boost in tourist arrival figures at a time when they are most welcome – during the rainy season when hotel occupancy rates are usually low.

Although the festival is said to have its roots in Kathu District, the traditional center of activity is Phuket City.

This too may be changing, however, as the festival has spread not only to other parts of the country but also around the island.

Unfortunately, it appears the TAT may now be trying to promote the event more actively in other provinces than here in Phuket.

An advertisement that appeared on the front page of the Sunday Bangkok Post on the first day of the festival bore the following message: “Amazing Thailand, Amazing value: Vegetarian Festival, October 17-28, 2009. Phang Nga, Krabi, Hatyai, Trang, Ranong, Nakhon Sri Thammarat.”

There was no mention of Phuket.

It is hard to know whether this was a glaring oversight or part of a deliberate TAT plan to promote lesser-known tourist destinations and events across the country, as it has done with its Unseen Thailand promotions.

Even today, the Phuket Vegetarian Festival still doesn’t even appear on the main webpage of the TAT’s listings for ‘Events and Festivals’ in October.

Rather, it is two more clicks away, after such fascinating spectacles as an expatriate ice hockey tournament in Bangkok and buffalo racing in Chonburi, to name but two.

Nor is there any hyperlink to the festival’s excellent homepage or other sources of detailed information about the schedule of events.

It is sad enough that Phuket had to ‘lose’ the recently completed Asean Summit to Hua Hin,ostensibly because hosting it concurrently with the festival was deemed to create a ‘security risk’.

Having so many international media on the island during the festival would have given the event unprecedented exposure.

It would be sadder still if the TAT ceased promoting the festival with full vigor, especially as the event’s success over the years must go down as one of the TAT’s greatest accomplishments.

Fortunately, the festival continues to grow on its own merits and with the help of groups like the Phuket Tourist Association, which is now actively promoting the event to potential tourists from mainland China.

— Weekly editorial by Stephen Fein

 

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

Phuket

British citizens fined 6,000 baht each for illegal ‘party’ in Phuket

Tim Newton

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An unedited video circulating, showing Phuket police raiding an illegal gathering in Cherngtalay, ended up with 2 UK citizens, working in Phuket, being fined 6,000 baht each. The Cherngtalay police are also calling on another 4 foreigners attending the party to present themselves to the police station to be charged as well.

Cherngtalay Police descended on the property around 5pm on Sunday following a tip-off from residents in the same street.

The video shows the police at the front gate of the property demanding entry… “Open, open, open the door… now!” The people inside the gate shouted back “no party”. The policeman leading the raid was Capt Prasan Ketsaro. Despite a number of other foreigners, and Thais, at the gathering, only the 2 British people attending the event were fined after being taken to the station.

British citizens fined 6,000 baht each for illegal 'party' in Phuket | News by ThaigerThey were officially charged with “acting against the Communicable Diseases Act, BE 2558 and the Phuket Provincial Order #2284/2564 Section 5,” according to the police report.

At the end of April the Phuket governor made an announcement, tightening restrictions for the island province.

“For social activities, all people must refrain gathering for celebration, such as birthday parties, welcome or farewell parties, or others, except traditional events, such as funerals, weddings, or ordination.”

At the time the vice governor of Phuket said that foreigners breaking the rule could also be subject to being deported. Foreign consular officials were also invited to the provincial offices with Governor asking them to ensure the citizens they represented would abide by the current rules and restrictions.

The video of what appears to be an afternoon soirée, complete with alcoholic drinks and a barbecue, was deemed by the attending police to be in clear contravention of the current restrictions, a point that the lead police officer, doing all the talking, kept making as he beckoned everyone inside the house to come out.

“Everybody, outside. Come one, come on, outside!”

None of the foreigners were wearing face masks in the early phases of the video although the Thai people inside the property either were, or were quick to put them on as the cameras were rolling.

The police kept berating and accusing the people inside the property… “you come for party”. They pointed to a pile of iced drinks on the verandah of the property (which contained wine, beer and other beverages)… “what is this, what is this?”

Any conversation was a bit one-sided with the Captain doing most of the talking whilst the owners of the property, and their guests, were at least trying to explain their situation.

The accusations were flying thick and fast “Why party?! You party!”

The foreigners insisted it wasn’t a party and were trying to reason with the police about the intentions of the afternoon’s gathering but the police had already made up their mind.

The lead police told the accused that they could take photos of the ‘raid’. The Thaiger has decided not to air the video but have shared some edited screenshots.

British citizens fined 6,000 baht each for illegal 'party' in Phuket | News by ThaigerBritish citizens fined 6,000 baht each for illegal 'party' in Phuket | News by ThaigerBritish citizens fined 6,000 baht each for illegal 'party' in Phuket | News by Thaiger

A lot of the social media commentary about the incident has focussed on whether the gathering was a “party” or not and accusations that the attending police were just after some tea money.

“The high crimes and misdemeanours of having drinks and a BBQ in your garden “

“What party? Even the mosque in Bang Tao is packed everyday, local Thai restaurants are packed – this it outrageous.”

“Pretty strange…. a good way to make money.”

“What a country this place is turning into.”

“The video is on all the Thai news site… and it not look like a party at all.”

The names of the people involved in the raid have been published in other media.

 

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Thailand

Americans in Thailand urge US to provide Covid-19 vaccines to citizens overseas

Tanutam Thawan

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Stock photo by Mufid Majnun for Unsplash

Thai officials say expats living in Thailand will be included in the government’s mass Covid-19 vaccination plan, but exactly when that will be is still up in the air. With foreign embassies in Thailand clearly stating that they will not assist with providing citizens living overseas with vaccines, expats are relying on the Thai government.

A number of Americans are now urging the US government to provide Covid-19 vaccines to citizens living in Thailand. And with the recent outbreak linked to the more contagious variant of the virus, getting a vaccine in Thailand has become more pressing.

A “Covid-19 Vaccine Task Force” of Democrats Abroad Thailand members, as well as those from American organisations based in Thailand, is calling on the US government to deliver vaccines to citizens living in Thailand, chairperson of Democrats Abroad Thailand and a United Nations consultant, Paul Risley, told VOA.

“Americans who live abroad need to be vaccinated for the same reasons that Americans who live in the United States need to be vaccinated… Because it’s the only way to stop Covid-19.”

If an American were to travel back to the US for a vaccine, they would still need to stay in a hotel or certified facility for a 14-day quarantine at their own expense when re-entering Thailand. Along with getting together the required paperwork, they would need to go through numerous Covid-19 tests including before the flight, upon arrival and before being released from quarantine. The flights to and from the US can end up being more than 20 hours per trip and add up to thousands of dollars in travel costs.

For the vast majority of Americans in Thailand, flying back to the US is the only way to get vaccinated at the moment. The US Embassy in Bangkok says vaccines will not be provided for US citizens living overseas.

The Department of State does not provide direct medical care, including vaccinations, to private U.S. citizens abroad. We are committed to providing all possible consular assistance to U.S. citizens in need overseas, including by providing information on local medical resources when appropriate. Please follow host country developments and guidelines for COVID-19 vaccination.

At a recent Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration meeting, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said “all people who reside in Thailand, regardless of their nationality, are eligible to receive the vaccine under the government’s plan.”

Mass vaccination campaigns are being rolled out in high-risk areas, such as Bangkok’s Khlong Toey slum where a cluster of infections was reported, as well as Phuket and Koh Samui, tourist islands that are said to be of “economic significance.” Health officials are trying to hit herd immunity on the 2 islands to reopen to foreign tourists.

Expats in Phuket who have a valid work permit can now register for a state Covid-19 vaccine. The registration must be under the company name and expats are told to have the company’s human resources staff assist with the registration process.

While no official announcement has been made regarding expats in Koh Samui, some foreigners who work as English teachers on the island say they have received both doses of the Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine. Schools apparently helped with the registration process, but some teachers say they told to keep quiet about getting the vaccine. Some did not receive a vaccine certificate or any other documentation confirming that they are vaccinated against the coronavirus.

SOURCE: VOA

 

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Phuket

ICU beds for Covid-19 patients in Phuket are close to a “critical” low

Tanutam Thawan

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FILE PHOTO

Covid-19 patients in severe condition may have to been transferred from a government hospital in Phuket to a private hospital as the number of available hospital beds at public intensive care units in Phuket is close to a “critical” low, according to Vachira Phuket Hospital Director Chalermpong Sukontapol.

There are 9 ICU rooms at the Vachira Phuket Hospital. 5 are being used for Covid-19 patients with severe symptoms while the other 4 rooms are for those with mild symptoms and are under observation before being moved to another bed.

“If the 9 rooms are full of severe symptom cases, that will be a big critical stage. We may need to transfer our patients to other provinces or private hospitals, which may involve additional costs.”

He says 50% of the Covid-19 patients in Phuket are asymptomatic while 30% have mild symptoms and 10% have severe symptoms. For most of those with severe symptoms, the virus has moved to their lungs and they are in need of special equipment, like ventilators, to help them breathe and Charlempong says those patients need to be under close observation.

SOURCE: Phuket News

 

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