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Phuket expats risking lives on the road to stay in paradise

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket expats risking lives on the road to stay in paradise | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: The visa van crash that took the life of Filipina singer Renita Dequina Polido on October 21 (story here) sent shock waves through the Phuket expat community and raised questions about the logic of a system that requires foreign workers to leave the country to get visas and renew 90-day permits-to-stay so regularly.

The early morning accident occurred on a rain-slicked road in Trang when the Penang-bound van, that passengers say was speeding, spun out of control and struck a tree, killing Ms Polido, seriously injuring four other passengers and leaving the remaining six with minor injuries.

Polish national Friedrich Menning broke a leg and ribs in the accident, and after being treated in Trang was transferred to Phuket International Hospital.

“It was worse than the the worst nightmare I’ve ever had,” he said.

“My Thai girlfriend and I were sitting in the back of the van with Ms Polido. The driver was going very fast – I’d say about 130 to 150kmh; the road was slippery from the rain. The van slid a little at one point, but the driver managed to correct the vehicle. Then it slid again, and he lost control,” Mr Menning said.

“We spun 180 degrees and the back of the van, where we were, hit a tree at full speed. It happened so fast. Afterward, I realized I was stuck in the van and called for help.

Mr Menning’s girlfriend, Wilaiporn Inlee, lost consciousness after the accident and woke up in Trang hospital with a broken arm and a head wound.

“I got 10 stitches for the cut on my head. I have bruises all over my body. My back still hurts. I had a severe headache at first, but fortunately a brain CT scan showed that I’m alright,” she said.

The experience left Mr Menning questioning the immigration system that requires him to leave the country in order to stay in it.

“I’m scared,” he said, “I have to put my life in the hands of an unprofessional driver, and risk my life for a paper, for a stamp,” he said.

“I wish we could report to the immigration office in Phuket Town instead. I’m willing to abide by any requirements they have, I just don’t want to have to keep leaving the country,” he said.

Phuket Immigration Superintendent Sanchai Chokkajaykij expressed regret over the accident.

“What happened was really sad. No one wants something like that to happen,” he said.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have the authority to issue visas or 90-day permits-to-stay at our office in Phuket Town,” Col Sanchai said.

“Only consulates and embassies can issue visas, and only immigration at the borders and airports can issue the 90-day permits-to-stay,” he said.

“For those people who are unable to obtain one year permits-to-stay… the best option might be to fly. It’s more expensive, but it’s safer,” he said.

Phuket Immigration Inspector Napat Nusen explained that certain requirements needed to be met in order for foreigners to receive a one-year permit-to-stay along with their one-year visa.

The two major hurdles for most one-year permit-to-stay applicants are a minimum salary requirement and minimum ratio of Thai to foreign workers at the business registered on their work permit, Lt Col Napat said.

“There are other requirements, but those two tend to be the ones that are the biggest obstacles,” he said.

“These requirements are not in place to make life difficult for foreigners,” he said.

“They are in place to protect Thai workers. For example, if a company can pay foreigners a low salary – below the legal minimum – then they may prefer to hire foreigners over Thais. The salary requirement also helps us screen people. The assumption is that foreigners who can command at least our minimum salary will have higher skills than those who cannot. The higher the salary, the higher the skills should be.

The 90-day permit-to-stay that many foreigners in Phuket repeatedly renew was created for businessmen and women who live elsewhere, but need to travel to Thailand to work, he explained.

“Actually, we expect foreigners who want to stay here longer to get the one-year permit-to-stay,” he said.

Those expats who are required to cross the Thai border regularly will need to continue relying on visa run companies, or pay for flights.

Repeated attempts by the Phuket Gazette to contact the owner of Phen Phet Visa Run, which operated the van Mr Menning rode in, were unsuccessful. However, the owner of another company in Phuket, Thai Visa Run, explained her firm’s safety procedures.

“My company has been in operation for about seven years, and we’ve never had an accident,” she said.

“For the Phuket-to-Penang trip, we have two drivers, because it’s such a long way. One drives from Phuket to Hat Yai and the other from Hat Yai to Penang,” she said.

“Our vans have GPS which links to our computer system, so we can monitor the drivers and see where they are and how fast they are driving. If they are driving too fast, we call to tell them to slow down,” she said.

Until the day that 90-day permits-to-stay are issued on Phuket or requirements for one-year permits-to-stay are changed, careful consideration of method of transport may be the best defense, Col Sanchai said.


— Orawin Narabal

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Phuket

Man’s body discovered hanged in a Phuket Town apartment

The Thaiger

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Man’s body discovered hanged in a Phuket Town apartment | The Thaiger

A man has been found hanged in Phuket Town apartment yesterday. Police are treating the cases as a suicide at the moment.

The man was found hanged from the apartment’s ceiling fan. His lifeless body was discovered around 11am after neighbours complained to the manager about the smell coming from the man’s room.

Police and the local Kusoldharm Foundation rescue workers attended the scene. Police later confirmed the incident happened in room on the 3rd floor of an apartment lock in Soi Phoonphol Soi 1, Talat Nuea in Phuket Town. Police said the man was 35-45 years of age and had a 29 year old girlfriend from Chumphon. He was paying 1,000 baht a month and had been renting the room for 2 months. Police estimate that the man had been dead for at least 3 days.

Police told media that the man had used, what appeared to be a dress, tied around his neck and then to the room’s roof fan. The apartment manager told police that he had been late on on his recent rent, speculating that the man may have been suffering financial hardship.

The man’s identity has not been released at this stage.

His body was taken to Vachira Hospital for an autopsy.

If you or anyone you know is in emotional distress, please contact the Samaritans of Thailand 24-hour hotline: 02 713 6791 (English), 02 713 6793 (Thai) or the Thai Mental Health Hotline at 1323 (Thai).

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Tourism

Bangkok Airways add 3 new local routes to their schedule

The Thaiger

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Bangkok Airways add 3 new local routes to their schedule | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Bangkok Airways' ATR72, servicing the re-introduced routes

Some domestic routes are being added as local routes continue to expand. This time Bangkok Airways has announced it’s resuming its Samui-Phuket, Phuket-Hat Yai and Phuket-Pattaya/Rayong (U-Tapao) flights.

The first additions to the schedule will be the Phuket-Samui flights resuming this Sunday, October 25, and the Phuket-Pattaya flights start again next Tuesday, October 27. The Phuket-Samui flights will be operating on Sundays and Wednesdays only on the airlines’ ATR72 turbo prop regional planes, same as before.

A casual search on the Bangkok Airways website, for a return flight from Phuket to Samui on November 1, then back to Phuket on November 8 indicates the cheapest fare (promo) is 2,430 baht. Coming back, the cheapest fare we found, again labelled ‘promo’, was 2,630 baht. Bangkok Airways operate as a “full service” airline and don’t compete with the country’s discount airlines. But they operate these three routes exclusively – like it or leave it.

Bangkok Airways say that the flights will be operated “with the highest preventive measures and standards”. Around the country the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand have eased a few of the onboard restrictions, including the start of catering services which were originally banned under the initial flight rules when domestic routes started flying again at the start of July.

The daily direct services between Phuket and Hat Yai are also being operated on the ATR72 aircraft. The flight to Ha Yai leaves Phuket at 8.40am and arrives at Hat Yai at 9:.45am. The return flights leave Hat Yai back to Phuket at 10.25am each day. The route was very popular for the airline before the ‘disruption’ when airlines had their fleets grounded in April.

The service between Phuket and U-Tapao, linking the party city with the party island, will operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, again with the ATR72. Phuket to U-Tapao will leave at 12.10pm and then from U-Tapao to Phuket at 4pm on the three days. U-Tapao is about a 50 minute drive from Pattaya and the airport also serves the greater Rayong area.

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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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