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Phuket calm as drama escalates in Bangkok

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– A daily digest of news from around the world compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

PHUKET: The latest development in the month-long standoff in the Bangkok-based anti-government demonstrations saw the protesters storming a satellite television station yesterday. Meanwhile, Phuket remained as calm and seemingly detached from the action as Perth, Pretoria or Pittsburgh.

The New York Times reports that the red-shirted protesters in the capital climbed over rolls of barbed wire and beat back soldiers and riot police officers who confronted them with tear gas and water cannons. The violence ended quickly as most of the security forces withdrew and the protesters took over the station’s compound.

The anti-government station had been taken off the air as the government’s main action in enforcing a state of emergency declared Wednesday evening. Soon afterward, officials announced that the station, the People’s Television Station, would resume broadcasting, a significant victory for the protesters. Several casualties were reported on both sides.

Mega-site Asia Travel Tips on Thursday was warning tourists to “exercise caution; to avoid demonstrations and getting involved in political debate; and even to refrain from wearing red or yellow shirts.

“If the situation concerns you,” the site advised, “then visit other parts of Thailand, such as Phuket…” and other peaceful tourist destinations in the Andaman region.

Bali bows to Phuket  

The Jakarta Post
Balinese tourism-related businesses must improve the courtesy shown to domestic visitors and put it on a par with that afforded to overseas visitors if the island is to remain a top leisure destination and compete with the likes of Phuket, a study says.

Udayana University’s Culture and Tourism Research Center says an estimated 150 million Indonesians spent their leisure time and money in domestic destinations, including Bali, Java and Sumatra, between 2005 and 2009, and it was domestic tourists who propped up the island’s tourism sector after the deadly 2002 and 2005 terrorist bombings scared off overseas visitors.

Domestic visitors have, however, complained about discriminatory services at hotels, restaurants and entertainment centres.

Some bars and nightclubs in Bali refuse entry to Indonesians.

Some hotels in Phuket did, actively or passively, discourage Thais from booking in the past, but economic factors and rising social rectitude have long since put paid to the practice.

Currently, a number of high-end resorts in Phuket are offering promotional discounts to Thais and foreigners resident in the Kingdom.

Swine flu spreads from Phuket to Namibia

All Africa
At least two cases of the H1N1 flu have been confirmed in Namibia and are believed to have been transported there from Phuket. They are the first cases of the flu strain reported in Namibia this year.

A group of 13 Swakopmunders returned to Namibia from a golf vacation in Phuket two weeks ago, and on arrival in Windhoek most of them were suffering from flu-like symptoms. One of those who tested positive to H1N1 said that, “I believe we contracted it in Phuket because one of our members already showed flu-like symptoms there.”

A child of one of the tourists who had visited Phuket is also believed to have contracted H1N1, and has been present at school during his infection.

The festival that rocked Phuket

National News Bureau
The Phuket International Blues Rock Festival 2010 set a record in attendance and musicianship, the organizers say.

The festival was officially opened by Phuket Vice Governor Smith Palawatwichai who gave a short speech on the importance of Blues and western music in Thailand.

The festival is an annual charity event and this year organizer Andy Anderson presented a cheque for 50,000 baht to the ‘Phuket Has Been Good To Us Foundation’ in support of education for less fortunate local children, and another 50,000 baht to the Rotary Club of Patong for local children and a number of projects on the island.

The Phuket Gazette has sponsored the Phuket musical event since its launch in 2005.

Anderson says he expects another record breaking festival next year.

Protesters arrested

CNN
At least 18 arrest warrants have been issued for leaders of Bangkok’s anti-government protests, who have rallied for almost four weeks, leaving the capital paralyzed.

The emergency decree in place since Wednesday evening allows the military to break up large gatherings and to arrest and search people without court orders.

A police spokesman says the authorities have arrested two suspects on motorcycles carrying a total of six homemade bombs. The two also had batons, electric shock equipment, body armor and communications devices, he said.

— Gazette Editors

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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

4 billion baht medical hub planned for Phuket

Maya Taylor

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4 billion baht medical hub planned for Phuket | The Thaiger
Mai Khao beach in north Phuket. PHOTO: Booking.com

Phuket officials are setting aside around 4 billion baht to transform medical tourism in the southern province of Phuket, by developing a state-of-the-art treatment hub in the north of the island. The Bangkok Post reports that the Treasury department is planning to give the Public Health Ministry permission to use 141 rai of government land in the sub-district of Mai Khao, close to Phuket International Airport. It’s not the first time the proposal has come to light.

The concept is gathering support as Phuket battles to diversify its attraction beyond a tropical holiday island.

The aim is to develop Phuket as a world-class health and wellness destination, with facilities that will attract medical tourists from all over the world, as well as providing a high standard of treatment to the local population. It’s understood the facility will provide a full range of health services, including long-term care, and hospice and rehabilitation services.

The island already has a well-developed medical tourism market, but has been based around local hospitals and clinics linking up with foreign marketing companies in the past. “The International Medical and Public Health Service” has been conceived to create more long term financial security and diversification, and value-added tourism in Phuket, as the island has taken a heavy financial hit over the past 7 months.

4 billion baht medical hub planned for Phuket | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Phuket Andaman News

The plan was first suggested in 2017, by then governor, Noraphat Plodthong and confirmed by the director of Phuket’s Vachira Hospital, Dr. Chalermpong Sukontapol, in July. At that stage, the estimated budget was 3-4 billion baht. The director-general of the Treasury department, Yuthana Yimkarun, says the plot is being offered to the Health Ministry for free. The land is thought be worth around 1 billion baht.

Yuthana says the ministry will manage investment, with approximately 2 billion baht required for the first stage of the project. Construction of the facility is expected to be completed over 2 years.

Meanwhile, it’s understood that unused government land that is currently managed by various government agencies may be moved under the remit of central government, with a view to increasing its worth. According to the Bangkok Post report, just 4% of government land is directly managed by the Treasury. The other 96% is controlled by various government agencies. Yuthana says the plan is to increase the percentage of state-owned land under the Treasury’s management to 10% within 2 years.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

“Open the borders, safely”, Bill Heinecke, Minor International interview – VIDEO

The Thaiger

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“Open the borders, safely”, Bill Heinecke, Minor International interview – VIDEO | The Thaiger

Bill Heinecke speaks to Bill Barnett. The two heavy-hitters of Thailand’s hotel and hospitality sector, mull over the current Covid situation and the reopening of Thailand’s borders to some form of tourism. Bill Heinecke is the Chairman and Founder of Minor International.

Bill Barnett is the Managing Director of c9hotelworks.com

Now the Thai government has approved the special long-term tourist visa scheme (STV), hoteliers are remaining skeptical about reopening due to the lack of clarity in the recent announcement, which will reportedly take effect next month. The president of the Thai Hotels Association’s southern chapter says more hoteliers will consider reopening if the government gives further information about the plan in terms of prospective markets, arrival dates, origin countries, and flights.

Such details would allow hotels to prepare themselves ahead of time to offer services as alternative state quarantine premises as at least 60 hotels in Phuket are awaiting approval to operate such facilities.

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Bangkok

Now they’re coming… Special Tourist Visa flight set for Tuesday – Tourism and Sports Minister

Caitlin Ashworth

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Now they’re coming… Special Tourist Visa flight set for Tuesday – Tourism and Sports Minister | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Unsplash: Suhyeon Choi

After much confusion and a few apparent ‘misunderstandings’, Chinese tourists on the Special Tourist Visa will actually arrive on October 20 and 26. At least that’s what Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn says, according to the Bangkok Post. The first group is said to arrive 4 days from now in Bangkok (if they actually applied for the visa this time).

Reports circulated for weeks about a flight of 120 to 150 tourists set to arrive in Phuket on October 8 from Guangzhou, China. An announcement was made shortly after the flight was due to arrive with Tourism Authority Governor Yuthasak Supasorn saying “administrative issues” had caused the delay.

It was later reported that no one from Guangzhou had actually applied for the visa and it was all just a misunderstanding after the Tourism Authority of Thailand reportedly passed off a list of those “interested” in the visa as actual applications.

This time, the Post is reporting the first group of 120 tourists from Guangzhou will arrive at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport on Tuesday. Another group of 120 tourists, also from Guangzhou, will arrive on October 26, but the Post didn’t say where that flight will land.

It’s apparently the same group that was planned to arrive in Phuket on October 8, but the minister claims the trip was postponed due to the Vegetarian Festival which is planned to run until October 25. Both the Phuket governor and National Security Council secretary general had claimed the festival was the reason for the delayed flight and was intended to ease fears of Covid-19 for the festival-goers coming in from the rest of Thailand.

Even though the new long stay tourist visa is good for 90 days, and can be renewed twice, the tourists will only stay in the country for 30 days, with 14 of those days in quarantine. Phiphat says the Tourism Authority of Thailand will find activities to keep the tourists occupied while in quarantine.

The visitors will be the first international tourists after a 6 month ban to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Thai officials have been discussing plans for months about how to safely reopen borders to revive the country’s economy which is heavily driven by the tourism industry. Officals are now talking about cutting down the mandatory time for quarantine from 14 days to 7 days to help entice people to visit.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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