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Police arrest 12 on Ranong “visa run’

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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RANONG: Twelve foreign tourists were pulled off a “visa run” bus just 40 miles from Ranong and confined to a jail cell overnight for overstaying their visas.

The company that arranged the tour claims that the arresting officers, from the Tourist Police and Highway Police, demanded 5,000 baht from each of the overstayed tourists in exchange for letting them go. The police deny this.

Six officers waved over the well-known “Big Bus” run by Phenpat Co Ltd at about 11 am yesterday in Ranong’s Kapoe District. The officers inspected the passports of the 34 foreign passengers and found that 12 had overstayed their visas.

They separated the 12 from the others, who were allowed to continue on to Ranong. The 12 were taken off in a police truck and confined in the local police cells.

Jutarat Payonchart, an employee of Phenpat Co Ltd, told the Gazette from the Ranong courthouse this afternoon that the police had overreacted by incarcerating the visa runners.

“Why did they have to keep them overnight in a cell? These aren’t illegal aliens trying to hide out in the country,” she asked, adding that most were just one- or two-day overstays. The maximum overstay was just 12 days, she added.

K. Jutharat said she was preparing to pay fines for those who had not brought along enough money to cover the unexpected expense – but by 5:30 pm the following day they were still at Ranong Provincial Court trying to pay the fines.

One of those arrested, a 31-year-old Australian man whose 30-day tourist visa expired the day before, told the Gazette:“It was terrible. I am so dirty now – I need to change my clothes. We didn’t have any information.

“It was crap. The police are hospitable in a way, but they don’t give us any information. They say we broke the law and all this stuff.

“In my case, on Tuesday I went to [Phuket] Immigration and said, ‘This is the last day of my visa, it expires tomorrow, what should I do?’ and they said, ‘Go and do a visa run tomorrow and pay a 200 baht overstay.’

“That’s exactly what I [was doing], but then we get pulled over by the Tourist Police and Highway Police and they make a huge problem for us,” he said.

He added that he found it dangerous and embarrassing to be forced to squat in the back of a cramped, hot police truck, which transported the overstayers along the highway with a police escort, sirens blaring.

The unexpected delay had also caused him to miss his flight out of the country, he said.

Pol Maj Songproad Sirikul, the new head of the Ranong Tourist Police, told the Gazette that his office had received a report that a business was assisting illegal aliens by bringing them to Burma. He said he ordered his men to check into this and, when they did, it turned out to be true.

“The police arrested them because they broke the law,” he said.

He denied K. Jutarat’s claims that the officers asked for 5,000 baht from each tourist in exchange for letting them go.

“I think that’s impossible. I can guarantee that the Tourist Police officers did not ask for money because we are not in trouble [financially] and I constantly remind them to not do that.

“If the visa runners have any witnesses or other evidence as to which officer asked for money, they should contact me direct,” he said.

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Tourism

Phuket airport ready for tourists after finishing Covid screening labs

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Phuket airport ready for tourists after finishing Covid screening labs | The Thaiger

Phuket Airport is officially ready for tourists as authorities say they have finished installing Covid screening labs in an effort to welcome international travellers. The 5T Model for Covid-19 is being used at the airport with the goal of screening large groups of people in a quick and efficient manner. The Phuket health chief says the 5T’s stand for Target, Testing, Treating, Trusting and Tracing.

Phuket has one large airport at the north end of the island but is separated into two separate terminals – a domestic terminal (the original airport terminal), and a new international terminal opened in 2016.

The target category refers to the target groups of tourists while the tracing stands for software that will be used to monitor their movements. The testing category refers to Covid tests that will be implemented to travellers upon arrival along with the treatment and trust categories signifying the readiness of resources for medical treatment and confident communications between all parties respectively.

The Covid-19 lab container module has been set up at Phuket airport’s Terminal X (the terminal opened for charter flights opened in 2014) and will be tested tomorrow with its operation to start on September 30. As large groups of tourists could arrive (later in the year, the lab is reportedly capable of testing 96 people at a time with test results becoming available in 6 hours. What the airport would do withe tested passengers whilst waiting for 6 hours, has not been detailed at this stage.

Such a readiness plan to welcome foreign tourists originally singled out Phuket due to its popularity with travellers, and as a so-called guinea pig model to test in a controlled environment (Phuket is an island joined to the Thai mainland by a single 300 metre road bridge). Once dubbed the Phuket Model, authorities have proposed to rename the plan to “Special Tourist Visa” due to the confusion and opposition it reportedly caused. The scheme is reportedly now being proposed for all areas of Thailand but only allowing foreigners from specific countries.

SOURCE: Pattaya Mail

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Politics

Phuket’s Sri Panwa Resort’s land title deed to be investigated for legality by DSI

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Phuket’s Sri Panwa Resort’s land title deed to be investigated for legality by DSI | The Thaiger

Back in the news again. Phuket’s Sri Panwa Resort’s land title deed is now to be investigated by the Department of Special Investigation after a petition was filed to determine whether the deed was procured legally. Veera Somkwamkid, the secretary-general of the People’s Network Against Corruption, filed the petition along with 167 pages of documents pertaining to his accusations that Thawatchai Anukun, a land fraud suspect, had unlawfully issued land title deeds to plots of land in Phuket before he mysteriously died in a detention room while in DSI custody in 2016.

He was allegedly being investigated for falsifying land deeds between the years of 1998 and 2001. Veera claims before the title deed was issued on the plot, the land was part of a forest known by locals as Pa Kae.

“Back then, 10 families that had occupied the plots for about 40 years had title deed requests rejected. The reason given was the land was part of a forest reserve used by the navy.”

However, Watchara Buathong, Phuket’s current land official, says the Sri Panwa resort had legally acquired its 56-rai, none of which was ever state land. Local resident Khwanjai Khumban, backed this claim, saying her father and cousins had sold most of the land to the resort, and she could produce documents to account for at least 12 rai of the disputed area.

Phuket's Sri Panwa Resort's land title deed to be investigated for legality by DSI | News by The Thaiger

Meanwhile, the Social Security Office, is also under fireas it is being asked to explain why it invested in the hotel’s trust fund. The department, which is under Thailand’s Ministry of Labour, in which its minister says he doesn’t know if the property has been legally built and points to the responsibility to the DSI to investigate. This was echoed by at least one opposition MP and anti-corruption activists.

The hotel, situated on Cape Panwa, in Phuket’s Muang district, has been under recent scrutiny due to its owner, Vorasit Issara, accusing Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, a co-leader of the anti-government United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration group, of offending the monarchy at last weekend’s protest at Sanam Luang.

Vorasit posted on Instagram that Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul should be jailed, further falsely claiming that she is not Thai when, in fact, Panusaya was found to have been born in Nonthaburi and is a Thai citizen.

“This bullshit has got to stop. She is not Thai. Who is she working for? This one needs to be in prison”.

Such a statement has received wide backlash from netizens with some taking to Trip Advisor and other websites to post bad reviews of the resort, prompting it to suspend advertising on such sites.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post
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Phuket

Female prisoner on the run after escaping from Phuket Hospital

The Thaiger

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Female prisoner on the run after escaping from Phuket Hospital | The Thaiger

A female prisoner is on the run after escaping from Vachira Hospital in Phuket during a doctor’s appointment. 58 year old Siri Phodam allegedly escaped after asking her prison escort officer to use the toilet. But she took a long time to come back, and was found to have escaped. CCTV cameras caught her dressed in a blue hospital patient shirt and a sarong leaving the hospital quickly. A Phuket prison officer says the woman is 158 centimetres tall and has dark skin.

“Some of our own officers are searching for her, and we have also sent the prisoner’s description to all Phuket police stations. However, at this stage we have not found any clues.

Female prisoner on the run after escaping from Phuket Hospital | News by The Thaiger

“If anyone finds a person matching the prisoner’s appearance, please inform us by calling 076 212 104.”

Siri was imprisoned after being charged with posessing illegal drugs and lived in Moo 2, Rawai.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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