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Expats condemn Phuket’s “xenophobic” rapid-test payment policy

Maya Taylor

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PHOTO: Flickr / dronepicr

Expats living in Thailand are up in arms after Phuket officials confirmed that foreigners arriving on the island would have to pay for a rapid Covid-19 test that is free for Thais. The testing requirement is part of new restrictions now in force to combat the spread of the virus. However, it is not the cost of the test – 500 baht – that has angered so many expats, but the fact that officials see nothing wrong with charging people based on their nationality.

On Monday it was announced that EVERYONE arriving in Phuket would have to pay 300 baht if they needed the ‘rapid covid test’. But that was amended the next day. Now we have the latest example of 2-tier pricing in Thailand (below).

The news was shared by Samut Prakan school staff and part-time blogger Richard Barrow on his Facebook page and has so far generated over 430 comments (and still growing), most of them furious…

“Unbelievable. I know Thailand is xenophobic, but for the authorities to do that is an absolute disgrace. They can piss off. I’ll take my business elsewhere in future.”

“I pay Thai taxes, I have for 16 years! am happy to bring my money elsewhere then!”

“Phuketians: “Tourists please come back.” Also Phuketians: “500b khap.”

It was not just foreigners commenting however, with at least one Thai person condemning the policy…

“I feel so so ashamed of how my country (or its government) so desperately wants more money to continue their corruption. Any possible ways they can rip you off – they will do shamelessly.”

Effective yesterday, anyone flying in to Phuket from elsewhere in the country must take a rapid Covid-19 test, unless they have taken a negative PCR test within the last 72 hours or can prove they’ve received both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine. With less than 1% of the country vaccinated – almost none of them foreigners – the second requirement is unlikely to be met by many.

Foreigners who have to take the rapid test, regardless of whether they are tax-paying work permit holders or retirees contributing to the economy, long-term residents or married to a Thai, will have to pay 500 baht. For Thais, it is free. The focus of expat anger is not the cost, but the principle, which is being roundly condemned as xenophobic.

Foreigners employed in the Kingdom in particular, are angered, given that they have been paying tax for years and have social security coverage. In response, Phuket health officials have issued an “explanation” – that manages to explain very little.

Expats condemn Phuket’s “xenophobic” rapid-test payment policy | News by Thaiger

Meanwhile, while the new restrictions apply to everyone arriving by air, for those arriving by road, only people coming from the high-risk “red” provinces need to meet the entry requirements.

And, just as a footnote, if your rapid covid test conducted by airport officials happens to come back positive you will be whisked away to a Phuket field hospital for a 14 day stay.

Expats condemn Phuket’s “xenophobic” rapid-test payment policy | News by ThaigerSOURCE: TPN

 

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62 Comments

62 Comments

  1. Avatar

    JehadiJohn

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 10:12 am

    The next scam is what happens after a positive test.
    Thai national is given both a free government isolation centre and re-testing regime
    Alien is forced to pay for an ASQ type facility and extortionate re-test fees.

  2. Avatar

    J West

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 10:13 am

    And so I write off Phuket as a R&R destination. R.I.P Phuket. I will stand fast on a principal I’ve applied to the double pricing scheme in Thailand for over 40 years…. “ I will not give a penny to any racist or xenophobic cause”. If tourism wants well paid foreign experts to support the cause, don’t insult us.

  3. Avatar

    PATRICK LEE

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 10:19 am

    And, just as a footnote, if your rapid covid test conducted by airport officials happens to come back negative you will be whisked away to a Phuket field hospital for a 14 day stay.

    – correction, should be : come back positive

    • Thaiger

      Thaiger

      Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 10:21 am

      Thank you. I was in a fit of rage when I added that. Thanks for the correction.

  4. Avatar

    Mister Stretch

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 10:42 am

    The only “bare” here is the blatant discrimination against foreigners, even those living here, paying taxes, owning businesses, caring for their families.

    The Thai SSO page says that any who are in the scheme, Thais or foreigners, qualify for a free test. Guess that was a “bare” lie, too.

    If I wasn’t married to a Thai national, I’d put this country in my rearview mirror, never to be seen again.

  5. Avatar

    GioTraveler

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 10:45 am

    Welcome to Thailand! Anyone surprised at this should not be. And if you have lived here for any length of time and are surprised then all I can say is wake up and smell the durian. It’s hardly worth getting worked up over given it’s pretty normal for Thailand and relatively low cost. Chill people it will all be Ok.

  6. Avatar

    Ynwaps

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 10:51 am

    It’s the NHSO, can’t do anything sorry k

  7. Avatar

    BKK Wanderer

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 11:17 am

    Yet there is another article saying that the ex-pats covered by the Social Security Members (read WP holders and tax-payers) are eligible for a free covid-19 test. So isn’t it the same rule applied for NHSO?

  8. Avatar

    Steve

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 11:45 am

    So what is new, everyone knew what the Thai mentality is like. Just sheer away and let them continue with closed bars restaraunts and hotels. They want the cake and the half penny. Good bye Phuket!

  9. Avatar

    Jim Simon

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 11:45 am

    I’m from the US and frankly, I am treated much better here than immigrants to the US are treated.

    I understand why people are upset but when you are not a citizen of a country, some things will be harder. The forced field hospital for a positive test frightens me and I won’t willing get a test to avoid this.

  10. Avatar

    Simon Small

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 12:33 pm

    For once I agree with the “double-pricing” whingers.

    “And, just as a footnote, if your rapid covid test conducted by airport officials happens to come back positive you will be whisked away to a Phuket field hospital for a 14 day stay”

    Did you check that in your “fit of rage”, @Thaiger?

    If so it’s a completely new policy and a “Phuket special” as previously anyone with a positive rapid test was only “whisked away to a field hospital” pending a PCR test, so just for a couple of days.

    The one thing I find particularly irrational here is the quarantine period – still 14 days, as it should be, if infected locally, but reduced to only 10 days for those flying in.

  11. Avatar

    7.62mm of darwin

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 12:46 pm

    @J West – OH come on it has always been this way thai lower or no price. Filthy farang cough up. I feel sorry for any farang now trapped in Thailand all kinds of rip offs will be put in place. I note there is a dob in phone number on drinking in resturants also.

  12. Avatar

    Graham Smith

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 12:51 pm

    I wont let the scammers feel the feeling of my money anymore. I hope
    they dont have anything more than fishing to look forward to. Discusting behavior during pandemic time THAI should be lose their face ,they who still has. Not even at this time the double pricing put a side, Shame on You and dont forget the what happend after the tragic tsunami.

  13. Avatar

    Xaos

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 1:19 pm

    This fake rapid test shows positives for saline water lol. 98% false positives

  14. Avatar

    Lenny Nimoy

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 1:28 pm

    If the Field Hospital is free, I would get yourselves infected, that way you can take advantage of a free 14 day stay and stick it right to them.

  15. Avatar

    stu

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 1:32 pm

    issan john…… where are u to defend the dual pricing?

  16. Avatar

    Chris

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 1:38 pm

    Has it been confirmed that if you fly in from an orange zone (eg. Chiang Rai) that you are treated the same as those flying in from a red zone?

    • Thaiger

      Thaiger

      Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 2:12 pm

      For flights into Phuket, yes.

  17. Avatar

    Tony

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 1:52 pm

    It’s like the old song .
    We don’t want you hear, you bring dirt,disease, and to our children fear,go home this town is not your home , so work it out you pay you stay,

  18. Avatar

    Sefton Hanley

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 1:57 pm

    The fact the ‘cost’ was 300b, until it was decided only non Thais would bear the cost.. when it then jumped some 66%…

    Pure comedy… I do hope people remember this treatment when tourism is again possible..

  19. Avatar

    LV

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 2:09 pm

    Thanks for jumping on this story. As a relatively young retiree here spending more money than most everytime I see how this govt treats us just makes me want to spend my money elsewhere where they appreciate ex pats.

  20. Avatar

    My2Cents

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 2:27 pm

    Don’t really see how its ‘xenophobic’ if they require all people (local and foreigners) to take the test…and don’t know why foriengers would just expect something for FREE if they are not paying taxes in Thailand or a national.

    The only people who should be upset are the foreigners who have work permits in Thailand and are payig taxes to the Thai government on their domestic income. Don’t really think anyone stuck here on extended tourist VISAs should be complaining about not recieving ‘free healthcare’. Can’t afford a 500BAHT Covid test…then you probably shouldn’t be taking a vacation during a pandemic.

    • Thaiger

      Thaiger

      Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 2:40 pm

      I think you’ll find the majority of the people chiming into this matter are working, tax-paying expats – many are identifying as such.

  21. Avatar

    Mark W

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 2:40 pm

    You mean spreading fear guilt and xenophobia was a bad idea? Shame on the media

  22. Avatar

    Rob

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 3:01 pm

    This is part of a wider issue that comes from the top. That it is OK to dual price because you are a foreigner in the kingdom. It needs to be a rhetoric that this is not OK anywhere. Especially in hospitals. I avoid national parks and dual priced attractions loosing the local economy thousands of baht just with me. They need to see past their noses and treat tax paying foreign guests equally.

  23. Avatar

    TS

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 3:17 pm

    dont be surprised if a required covid test pops up for visa renewals in the future. when it comes to tearing off a few more baht from farang, they’ll figure it out

  24. Avatar

    Mr J.

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 3:17 pm

    Had an annoying instance of this many years back when visiting the theme park outside of Bangkok, (Dream World I think?…) many years back when visiting with my family.
    After getting the long taxi ride from the city there, we were dropped at the ticket office. There were prices on the wall for entry, but none for a family. My wife being Thai, asked how much….The lady at the counter then stood up and pointed at each one of us Individually, reading out a price. When she pointed at me, she read out a totally different inflated price that what my wife was being charged, and to what was stated on the board. I immediately kicked in to, you can stick it mode, and was happy to leave, but my wife being the Mouth at the time pointed out the long arduous taxi ride straight back and our kids disappointment following their Dad spoiling the day….So I paid, while preaching to the cashier my outrage of being ripped off…..I’ve never been done like that again. We only attend places with clear pricing before hand, otherwise they don’t get my money.

  25. Avatar

    Simon Small

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 3:51 pm

    Agree with you 100% on that, @My2Cents.

    If you look at the vast majority complaining there’s no sign that they’re working at all or paying SS contributions and most identify as “retirees” or tourists, as all (literally all) less @Thaiger are here.

    The only “tax” most are paying that they’re bleating about is on a beer and 7% VAT!

  26. Avatar

    Kim

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 4:04 pm

    This is unfortunately how a 3rd World Country operates. One has to figure out whether the pro’s outweigh the con’s. Double pricing is notorious to Thailand, however, people still seem to relocate and take up residence here. For me personally, then the pro’s still outweigh the con’s, however, the latter is getting scarily close to tip the glass.

  27. Avatar

    David Mann

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 4:18 pm

    I think many people here are missing a very important point. Testing is something the authorities should be encouraging. The more people come forward for tests, the more chance to identify clusters and control the spread. The debates over charging non tax payers or foreigners is pointless. The Thais will be doing double pricing in 100 years from now. Anyone who has lived in Thailand for more than a month knows what it’s like. However, testing should be free to all in order to protect all. By discouraging any person or group to take a test will only perpetuate the crisis. Now that’s not racist or xenophobic, that’s just plain stupid.

  28. Avatar

    PJ

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 4:28 pm

    Even though the two-price system is not new, and we shouldn’t be surprised, it doesn’t mean it is correct! I salute Richard Barrow for raising this issue, and creating a campaign against this two-price policy. know for sure it would have been an outrage in my home country if we had similar practice as this. We have the power of not accepting this, and stop going to destinations or venues that discriminate foreigners. I have no need to go to Phuket any time soon, and gladly go to Krabi, Koh Samui or any other place where we are not going to be discriminated.

  29. Avatar

    Dreqo

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 4:51 pm

    All the little tourist trap tricks are mindlessly easy to circumvent, this one as well.

  30. Avatar

    Slugger

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 5:07 pm

    For what? A whole seven quid? Its a deal breaker!!

    Cheap charlies rule the roost. Unbelievable.

  31. Avatar

    Jesus Monroe

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 5:21 pm

    PHUKET = FUKET

  32. Avatar

    Craig

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 5:27 pm

    Good comments on both sides. I’m retired here and I’ve known about the different pricing for farang. It’s not new. It’s cheap to live here and the healthcare is, and has been good. I understand someone paying taxes here would be upset but this farang pricing has always been the case. Yes, I will get upset if future visa extensions require me to go to a hospital for 2 weeks and pay the country for those services.

  33. Avatar

    LV

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 5:29 pm

    @Jim Simon – Are you freaking kidding me? Not even close… immigrants in US have virtually the same rights and pathway to citizenship. The green cards also last a long time and you dont have all these reporting rules and zero dual pricing.

  34. Avatar

    Simon Small

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 5:35 pm

    “I salute Richard Barrow for raising this issue, and creating a campaign against this two-price policy. know for sure it would have been an outrage in my home country if we had similar practice as this.”

    Well, Richard Barrow is a Brit and I don’t see him “raising the issue” of the UK’s National Health Surcharge, or any “outrage” from him over HIS home country’s “two-price policy” for medical cover.

    27,000 baht surcharge per year for an adult, 135,000 for a five year visa.

    20,000 a year for children or students.

    That’s AS WELL AS their taxes and national insurance, and even those foreigners the NHS relies on from Asia, Africa, the Commonwealth and now the EU have to pay it.

    I don’t agree with it because those genuinely entitled to SS cover should be included, and @David Mann’s got a very fair point too, but the idea that this is “how a 3rd world country operates” and “Thai mentality” because the West never does it just doesn’t hold up and it’s pure hypocrisy by the likes of Richard Barrow.

  35. Avatar

    Frank

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 7:15 pm

    Just rasist like always, it is 2021 and thailand lives in year 1800 with the rasist behavior without shame … let me throw up for a second brrrr puufff aagghhh

  36. Avatar

    Steve

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 7:23 pm

    @My2Cents – Its called principal the test is to make everyone safe. And regarding the money 500 Baht,, how much will an expat spend in a month compaired to a Thai. 500 is nothing! They want busines but also want us forigners to pay in order to give them busines

  37. Avatar

    James

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 7:43 pm

    The real problem is affordable testing on the island. This 500 baht test is only available for incoming flights. If any Phuketians who attended Kolour festival want to get tested, it’s gonna cost around 3500 baht anywhere on the island. How do you thinks that’s gonna play out?

  38. Avatar

    Frank

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 7:55 pm

    Rapid antigen tests have a lot of false positives and negatives, which is why they aren’t as widely used as the PCR test.

  39. Avatar

    Frank

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 8:04 pm

    Rapid antigen tests have a lot of false positives and negatives, which is why they aren’t as widely used as the PCR test. That means if you aren’t actually positive, you will be when you are put in a tent full of infected people.

  40. Avatar

    Hasse

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 8:11 pm

    I don’t think Thailand want to have any tourist come back soon or have any expats live there. Thailand start to be like China.

  41. Avatar

    Robert Nett

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 8:40 pm

    Yes , you are right, The worst thing it happen to me. I travel from Prachuap Khiri Khan (red zone) to Buriram, had to go to the hospital for an test . I pay 1100,- THB for that, my thai girl friend nothing. So why is everybody complaining about 500 THB.
    Please make this public, I don’t know how to write the THaiger…

    >Rob

  42. Avatar

    Michael Grover

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 9:08 pm

    @Simon Small – you are so wrong…..17 years, 2 companies and a Thai wife….work permit, income tax everything…what gives you the moral high ground to preach?

  43. Avatar

    Jeremy

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 11:12 pm

    I think it’s fine. 90% of foreign born people will be traveling with a Thai, so instead of paying $600 baht for both, you only have to pay $500

  44. Avatar

    David Sanders

    Friday, April 23, 2021 at 2:04 am

    Given the poverty and low wages that exists in Thailand, its unconscionable to expect the Thai government to subsidize the tests for relatively well off Farangs who are flying into Phuket on jet aircraft.

  45. Avatar

    Paul

    Friday, April 23, 2021 at 2:08 am

    @JehadiJohn – I thought so. As they say in England “got you by the short and curlys”

  46. Avatar

    Simon Small

    Friday, April 23, 2021 at 3:54 am

    “@Simon Small – you are so wrong…what gives you the moral high ground to preach?”

    The facts.

    I’m against dual-pricing anywhere, but what I’m “preaching” about is saying that it’s ““how a 3rd world country operates”, “Thai mentality” or “in year 1800 with the rasist behavior without shame” when Western countries such as Richard Barrow’s (and mine) do exactly the same but far worse.

    Maybe you could explain how charging every foreigner who has a work permit, a local wife, pays income tax, “everything” except permanent residency, a surcharge of 27,000 baht (20,000 for children and students) per year for health coverage is acceptable while charging them 500 baht for a rapid flow test is “so wrong”?

    The gauntlet has been thrown down, but I doubt it will be taken up.

  47. Avatar

    SJ

    Friday, April 23, 2021 at 4:38 am

    Vote with your feet and avoid this discriminatory pricing like the plague.

  48. Avatar

    SJ

    Friday, April 23, 2021 at 4:40 am

    In Australia, Covid testing is free for anybody who presents to a Covid testing clinic. The vaccine will be provided ( yes the rollout is slower than planned ) to all who are residing here due to the dangers the virus presents to the entire community and not only citizens

  49. Avatar

    Roger Bruce

    Friday, April 23, 2021 at 4:57 am

    I am assuming “Expats” are mostly British .. UK….jolly old English men
    In Australia, we used to have millions of British migrate to Australia each year
    Over time they found they did not fit in well with our society
    Many left and returned home but now numbers have dropped

    We had a term for the English in Australia for decades

    The “Winging Poms” I guess that sums it up

    Never happy never content very selfish (the ones that come to Australia )

    Love trade unions love disputes love England hahaha

    You see all these Expats comments I do not know for sure
    But I bet most of you are Poms …..poor Thailand
    Prince Harry had the idea …he woke up
    Good luck Thailand

  50. Avatar

    Mark

    Friday, April 23, 2021 at 7:57 am

    @GioTraveler –
    Unfortunately you are correct , or they can suggest to pack your bag and live .

  51. Avatar

    Bubba

    Friday, April 23, 2021 at 8:12 am

    @Jim Simon – I’m an American and my mother was an immigrant. Immigrants in the United States, with few exceptions, are treated better than here in Thailand. All citizens and non-citizens are eligible for FREE Covid immunizations. Non-citizens are free to travel within the US without reporting their whereabouts. I think you need a refresher course in the US before you make any further comparisons.

  52. Avatar

    Chris Vian

    Friday, April 23, 2021 at 10:30 am

    @J West – I think it’s so funny how whites moan about paying a bit more than Thais. Go to nakhon Ratchasima zoo and you pay £1 more than a Thai so you pay £3. Go to London zoo and you pay £65. Instead of moaning why don’t you just leave? Simple.

  53. Avatar

    gigi

    Friday, April 23, 2021 at 11:37 am

    I smile seeing once again discuss about this country !!! Go there only for the holidays !!! But really there is someone who dreams of this paradise or who is still there thinking that it is? Well … I am speechless !!!

  54. Avatar

    Billibob

    Friday, April 23, 2021 at 12:33 pm

    @Roger Bruce – what a dick you are, where do you think the western aussies originated from….yes the UK. So by default you are a winging pom. Also if you bothered to do your research before posting shite you would discover that pome actually refers to “prisoner of mother England” who were deported to Sheila land.

  55. Avatar

    Wildrover

    Friday, April 23, 2021 at 1:23 pm

    @JehadiJohn – these cheap Chinese antigen tests are notoriously inaccurate, delivering high numbers of both false positives and false negatives. No way am I going to fly to Phuket while this testing requirement is in force.

  56. Avatar

    maxcorrigan

    Friday, April 23, 2021 at 2:43 pm

    @stu – He’s morphed into Simon Small he’s got several posts on this topic, same old crap!

  57. Avatar

    chupapi

    Friday, April 23, 2021 at 7:03 pm

    Soon there will be available salivary tests, and there are already tests which can be purchased online (at less than half than 500 baht/test) and self-administered – for those who are able to correctly perform a nasal swab, of course. Pretty sure these will surpass such policy, anybody can travel with a test in their pocket and do the test in front of the officials without paying them such bribe.

  58. Avatar

    Covid1984

    Friday, April 23, 2021 at 8:03 pm

    This rapid tests were abandoned in UK, Dubai etc, cuz they 2% accurate.

  59. Avatar

    Joe

    Saturday, April 24, 2021 at 9:55 am

    @Simon Small – it’s isaan John in disguise trying to justify it all one again.

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