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SPECIAL REPORT: Fears of Phuket abductions

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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SPECIAL REPORT: Fears of Phuket abductions | The Thaiger
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Special Report:

It is a typical story in Phuket: a taxi or van picks up passengers and on the way to their destination gets them to stop at a jewelry store, souvenir shop or travel agency.

A familiar experience, considered no more than an irritation or a waste of time by some.

But is it more serious than this?

PHUKET: For an elderly American woman who arrived alone on Phuket last January, the experience was a terrifying one, one that caused her to run out of the cab screaming for help once she reached her hotel. Prompted by the frightening experience, the woman called the US Embassy in Bangkok and reported that she had been kidnapped, according to an email sent to the Phuket Gazette.

“She was emotional and almost frantic,” the email said.

The woman said that she was picked up at the airport and had asked to be taken to the five-star resort where she had a reservation.

Instead, she was delivered to a travel agency, where she said she was “interrogated” about her personal information, such as where she came from and how long she planned to stay in Phuket. The agent told her that if she booked any trips, they had to be made through his agency.

The woman felt frightened and intimidated and pleaded to be taken to her hotel. She finally arrived there over an hour later.

When does a side-trip become an abduction? Two top legal officers in Phuket disagree on the answer.

Phuket Public Prosecutor Tawan Sukyiran did not mince his words.

“This is a case of abduction according to the law,” he said.

“The taxi driver, by not taking her directly to her hotel, which she had asked to go to, deprived her of her freedom,” he said.

“The length of time doesn’t matter. Even if it was just for five minutes, it can still be considered an abduction.

“She did not get out of the car willingly at the tour agency. She was forced to get out and she did so because she thought her safety was in jeopardy,” Mr Tawan said.

Yotsavee Pornperaparn, Phuket Tourist Police Superintendent, did not share Mr Tawan’s view.

“It is not an abduction,” he said, “because in the end, she was taken to her hotel.

“He did not kidnap her or take her to an unknown place,” he said.

Col Yotsavee argued that it is impossible to know what the driver and the woman discussed.

“She might have said something and the cab driver might have misunderstood her and thought she wanted to visit a tour agency,” he said.

“I don’t think this is a case of abduction, but it might be a case of cheating,” he continued.

“It would be cheating if he took her to the agency in order to try to get a commission from the company,” he explained.

Col Yotsavee said that this case was the first of its kind.

“A case like this has never been reported before… though taxi drivers do cheat and take advantage of tourists all the time. We have tried to fix the problem, but it’s out of our control,” he said.

He called on the public to report similar cases to 076-223 891 or 1155, with information about the license plate number, the color of the car and the driver’s name.

Some taxi companies have policies in place to protect tourists. Prasat Pechwang, a taxi driver with Phuket Taxi Meter Service Co Ltd at the airport said.

“If the taxi company finds out that a driver tried to cheat, drive out of the way or force a tourist to stop at another place on the way to the hotel, he will be barred from driving his car for the company for three days,” Mr Prasat said.

“The first time the driver will be warned. If it happens again, he might be fired,” he said.

How many tourists, backpackers to luxury guests, are taken on such an unwelcome first “tour” of Phuket is uncertain. However, one thing is sure – guests such as the elderly American woman are unlikely to be recommending Phuket to friends.

— Orawin Narabal

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Thailand

UPDATE: Confusion over Covid-19 tests for visa extensions

Caitlin Ashworth

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UPDATE: Confusion over Covid-19 tests for visa extensions | The Thaiger

UPDATE: Khaosod English removed a story on Covid-19 tests for those seeking visa extensions and replaced it with the article “Immigration backtracks on plan to require Covid-19 test for visa extensions.” They say the previous report sparked uproar among expats and immigration police spokesperson has since apologised for the misunderstanding.

Original article…

Confusion reigns today over whether Covid-19 tests will be required for visa extensions. While The Phuket News spoke with an immigration official who said “no… you don’t need a Covid-19 test to extend your visa or apply for a work permit”, Khaosod English wrote an article headlined “Covid-19 test will be mandatory for all visa extension”.

The Thaiger also contacted a respected visa agent who said Covid-19 tests are, indeed, now required for applying for both visa extensions and work permits, even renewals.

The Thai Immigration Bureau has not made any official announcement regarding Covid-19 tests. Talk about Covid-19 tests for foreigners was brought up after a rule was published in the Royal Gazette last month, officially adding Covid-19 to a list of dangerous diseases, prohibiting those infected with any of the listed illnesses from entering the country.

Immigration Police Bureau spokesperson Archayon Kraithong told Khaosod English that proof of a negative Covid-19 test will be required for visa extensions, regardless of how long a foreigner has stayed in Thailand. On the other hand, Phuket immigration deputy chief Nareuwat Putthawiro told The Phuket News that Covid-19 tests will not be required for visa extensions or work permit applications.

“We do not require any medical documents for an application to renew a visa, because there are few foreigners’ movements outside Phuket. Most of them live and work in Phuket, and have done so before the new wave of Covid-19… So they do not have to worry about it. Everything is still the same.”

Medical exams are currently already required for most work permit applicants (including tests for Syphilis and Elephantiasis). A visa agent told The Thaiger that Covid-19 tests have been added to the medical examination requirements for work permit applicants. But, on the other hand, Phuket immigration says they DO NOT require Covid-19 tests for work permit applicants.

“We have not received any notices about Covid-19 requirements for processing applications to renew visas. If we do receive any such orders, we will let the public know.”

It isn’t the first time there has been conflicting statements coming out of different officials, in different immigration offices on different days.

SOURCES: Phuket News| Khaosod English

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Visitors to Phuket from “highest risk” areas must show Covid-19 test results

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Visitors to Phuket from “highest risk” areas must show Covid-19 test results | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Chiang Rai Times

People arriving Phuket from the “highest risk” areas are required to take a swab test by the staff at emergency operation centres (EOC) or show the test result document endorsed by the EOC staff made within 72 hours of their arrival. The revised order is effective from now until January 31, according to the Phuket Governor.

Those people who are on a brief business trip to Phuket need to show certificates from their employers describing the reason and necessity of their trips. If they want to leave their accommodations, they have to make a request to the EOC and clearly explain the reason as well as the time and destination. Visitors are also asked to avoid going to the community areas to avoid crowded gatherings.

It is noted that the revised order by the governor has not been officially promoted by the Phuket office of the Public Relations Department. However, all visitors are still asked to register online via the Mor Chana contact tracing application and via www.gophuget.com according to the order re-issued on Friday.

SOURCE: Phuket News

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Tourism

The road less travelled – trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint

The Thaiger

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The road less travelled – trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | The Thaiger

There are two well known ways to get from Kathu to Kalim or Kamala – one is across the Patong Hill, and the other is much longer, through Srisoonthorn and along the coastal road from Surin the Kamala (very scenic too).

But there’s also another way. Also very scenic but will take you about 2 hours through dense forest although there is a well-worn walking track. The track will take you from Kathu up to the Kalim Viewpoint. From here you can head back to Kathu along a different path, or down into Kalim, near Patong.

Starting about halfway down Soi Namtok in Kathu, you head up a nondescript road past the Flying Hanuman zipline attraction, although there’s no sign at the entrance to the soi (below). About the first kilometre is paved but then becomes increasingly ‘agricultural’ as you get higher into the hills, heading towards the Kalim Viewpoint. There’s also a small temple on the way up.

The road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: The start of the trek, a small soi off Soi Namtok – Google Maps

It will take around 2 hours to trek up to the Kalim Viewpoint. The walking is quite strenuous and you’ll need to be wearing the right shoes and take plenty of water – there’s no 7/11s on the way! As you get nearer the top, to the viewpoint, the track becomes less drivable although the track is still quite open and easy to follow. If you’re feeling a bit lazy you can take a motorbike about halfway up the road until you’ll need to proceed on foot from there.

From the Kalim Viewpoint you can see across Kalim to Patong Bay and the land that stretches along the bay south of Patong Beach. From the top you can either make your way down to Kalim or another exit along the Kalim-Kamala Road, just near the Iguana Beach Club.

You can also head back another way to Kathu, a longer return track that skirts around the top of the Kathu Waterfall. A lot of that track gets very narrow and parts of it are up and down the hills, some of it very steep.

The views are amazing and you get to see a vast swathe of Phuket, still very close to popular locations like Patong, Kamala and Kathu, but untouched by any civilisation.

You’ll need to be in reasonable health to take on the trip but, just to go up to the Kalim Viewpoint and back, or down into Kalim, should take around 5 hours in total. On a scale of 1 – 5 for difficulty, we’d rate it a 3. An easy trek for experienced people but will need a bit of planning if you’re not an experienced trekker.

Even on a hazy day, as it was today, the views were amazing. But best to start off early morning when the weather is cooler. Well worth the time for the views and the opportunity to see more of Phuket, away from the bars and beaches.

Thanks to BT for the pics and information.

The road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The Thaiger

The road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The ThaigerThe road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The Thaiger

The road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The Thaiger

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