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Phuket’s tourism high season hopes shattered in policy flip-flop

Bill Barnett



Phuket’s tourism high season hopes shattered in policy flip-flop | The Thaiger
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“The time has come that Thailand must gain confidence from international benchmarks.”

Thailand’s leading resort island Phuket has come face-to-face with the reality that it’s tourism high-season will not see a marked reopening to overseas travellers. In the wake of the dismantling of the ‘Phuket Model’ and refocus by the government on using Bangkok as a single international gateway, there is increasing alarm over the lack of a path forward for the island’s rice bowl – tourism.

The key tourism indicator for the island is airlift and Phuket International Airport is the gateway for 70-80% of visitors to the destination. According to Airports of Thailand data, 121,530 passengers arrived in the month of September. This equates to just over 4,000 arrivals a day and most of these include local residents and business people. Comparing year-on-year data, 2019’s daily arrivals, which included international travellers, was five times higher.

Commenting on the toxic situation, hospitality consulting group C9 Hotelworks Managing Director Bill Barnett says “there is a dramatic change in the market mix where the current domestic-led average length of stay for hotels is approximately 1.8 days, while for foreign travellers it’s more than double this amount. What this means for hotels is severely reduced overall demand across the island’s entire accommodation sector.”

Looking forward to the high season when the numbers spike upwards in the four months of December through March, the high season months last year equated to more than one-third of annual demand.Total domestic and international arrivals at the airport totaled just over 9 million in 2019.Adding in high season shoulder months into the equation, the stark economic impact of Phuket’s economic seasonality is reflected in the fact that well over half of the island’s tourism arrivals are packed into a six-month period.

Now, nearly two months into that timeframe, what is apparent is it’s virtually impossible to save the high season, and hotel owners in 2021 will be forced to contend with historically the lowest trading months of the year by May. Given these grim prospects, C9 is predicting more large-scale job losses and business closures given there is no light at the end of the pandemic-induced tunnel.

“Taking a 360-degree view on the restricted domestic-only demand, you have to take into account that Phuket’s current registered accommodation supply has continued to surge to its present size of 90,267 rooms in 1,773 hotels/tourism establishments”.

“Of this supply upper midscale, upscale, and luxury properties of international standards are approximately 25% of the total rooms.”

Phuket’s tourism high season hopes shattered in policy flip-flop | News by The Thaiger

Data from leading data intelligence provider STR daily has Phuket occupancy averaging 10% with upward spikes on weekends at international standard hotels. Looking into the number though, the reality is domestic travelers are cashing in on cheap deals at upscale and luxury hotels.Given limited visitor arrivals the far larger mid and economy tiers where most of the hotel inventory sits, are experiencing even lower occupancy. This domino effect is expected to prevail unabated throughout a sustained downturn and effectively crushes the smaller properties and local tourism businesses.

As Thailand’s government policy has maintained Bangkok as the sole entry point for a limited number of travelers from overseas under the Alternative State Quarantine (ASQ) program, a number of hotels in all tiers are operating under the scheme. Hotel performance data for Bangkok from STR is reflecting occupancy just above 25% for international standard hotels, though again in the broader marketplace demand is at considerably lower levels.

In Phuket, many hotels pinned high-season hope on the now-aborted ‘Phuket Model’ to allow Special Tourist Visas (STV’s) aimed at long-staying visitors, which is logical given the island’s legacy winter ‘snowbird’ market from Northern Europe and Russia. Putting the Alternative Local State Quarantine program at the head of the reopening tourism initiative, 17 Phuket hotels have been approved and 21 applications are under process. Properties who have undertaken both the expense and time in qualifying for the status have been shut-out, given the government’s about-face policy of centralising all overseas arrivals into Bangkok.

What is unclear is the logic in policy flip flop on negating the island’s essential tourism lifeline. Using smaller contained resort-focused islands would appear a logical risk mitigation strategy that was echoed in all of the hype over the ‘Phuket Model’ but after the dust has settled, it ultimately failed to launch.

The time has come that Thailand must gain confidence from international benchmarks, such asthe tourism dependent Maldives. According to data from the nation’s Ministry of Tourism, in October the destination recorded 21,514 tourist arrivals. This trend is again on the rise in November and looking back the country has safely managed the reopening of its borders since mid-July. Another nearby island, namely Singapore is set to put an overseas travel bubble into place within this month to Hong Kong.

“Losing this high-season will further intensify the catastrophic impact on the island’s business owners and the livelihoods of the vast majority of residents. Given the sheer size of the hotel inventory, it cannot survive only on domestic visitors, cheaper airfares, or by adding more public holidays. For Phuket, this high season, faced with the prevailing arithmetic the island can only wait and wonder what comes next.”

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  1. Avatar


    November 10, 2020 at 8:52 am

    It’s said that money goes where it’s most respected. Probably goes for people as well…

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    November 10, 2020 at 8:54 am

    The current gov has given tourism. Advisory committee to look at alternative economy signals that ! Dying islands of the south and gulf ! There’s no democractic accountability it doesnt matter

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    November 10, 2020 at 9:20 am

    Self quaritine at your choice of hotel. Tests 72 hours before flight???

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    Jack Sombra

    November 10, 2020 at 9:48 am

    Simple reality is Government have no clue how to actually open. They backed themselves into a dead end street without a clue how to get out and then let the village idiot, otherwise known as Auntin, take the lead and he could not organise a piss up in a brewery as would be to busy trying to figure out how he could gain from it, while watching all the beer was going down the drain. High season is lost this year, which basicaly means Phuket will go another 12 months before it will see any real profit again, even if the vaccine comes in next few months and with the vaccine is only way these clowns will ever figure out how to open, and even that they will probably mess up.

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    November 10, 2020 at 10:27 am

    matter is we as witnesses based in Thailand, all love Zoos and Circus, we have here one of the greatest show in the world with USA and Europe being great artists taking part too !!!

  6. Avatar


    November 10, 2020 at 10:50 am

    The flip flop isn’t what killed high season. There is no way 1,200 tourist a month would have saved it. The STV scheme was destined to fail. The problem is still the same, tourists have no desire to quarantine. Its why the snow birds are headed to Mexico, the Caribbean and Africa. There is a reason the Japanese have started to arrive in Hawaii but not Thailand. The simple truth is nothing will save Phuket outside of reopening to international tourists. When that happens is anyone guess.

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      Issan John

      November 10, 2020 at 1:29 pm

      Exactly. 1,200 a month would make no difference and neither would the 20,000 going to the Maldives.

      It’s a balancing act: Phuket and Pattaya suffer, or the whole country suffers as the West is suffering now.

      It’s a pretty simple choice, and the vast majority of Thais have made their feelings very clear.

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    Robert K Choate

    November 10, 2020 at 11:11 am

    A sad state of affairs, on one hand is the health of Thai citizens, on the other hand, is over 20 % of the Thai economy is going down the tubes right in front of our eyes. This 20% of the economy is only the tip of the iceberg, Last year companies started to move out because they stated it was not profitable to do business in Thailand and Government always changing policies with taxing rules, ownership rules and shipping was getting too expensive. These were not small companies but worldwide companies, Harley Davison just one to name. So add another 5% to the 20% and that adds up to 1/4 of the entire income for Thailand soon the Thai Baht will start to be devaluated and than maybe someone will realize that they better get their country working again or Cambodia will be the new winner of every thing Thailand losses.

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      November 10, 2020 at 1:57 pm

      “20% of the Thai economy” is NOT dependent on foreign tourism. This is NOT the figure given by any recognised sources, which ALL put it at between 11 and 12%.

      NO “taxing rules, ownership rules” changed. NONE – NAME ANY!!!

      Companies left because it wasn’t profitable due to the increased cost of shipping and labour and a drop in demand worldwide.

      Harley-Davidson has NOT left Thailand, but on the contrary has moved it’s production from China TO Thailand, as well as partly from the US to Thailand (with a 30% plus tariff from the EU for US made Harleys against a 6% tariff for Thai made ones, hardly a surprise). Construction of the factory started in 2018 and it went on line last year. YOPU’RE TALKING NONSENSE!

      “Cambodia will be the new winner …”?


      Only for the long term tourists Thailand doesn’t want, and for the sweatshops and garment factories as wages are half what they are in Thailand.
      Foreign investment from Western companies is minimal, with the biggest foreign investors being Chna (35%), Japan (accounting for (7.8%), Vietnam (2.9%), Singapore (1.8%), the Republic of Korea (1.7%), Malaysia (1.36%) and Thailand (0.9%).

      • Avatar

        Toby Andrews

        November 10, 2020 at 6:24 pm

        Never the less, investment by foreign manufacturing operators continued to drop during 2006 -2010 at an average of US$10.83 billion a year to $7.26 billion a year at present.

        Foreign investors continue their net selling of Thai stocks for more than seven years to a total of 800 billion Baht.

        The reasons:
        State policy does not promote free competition and fairness . . .
        domestic political instability and uncertainty of continued economic policies . . .
        recurring political conflicts . . .
        lack of proper protection of intellectual property . . .
        Thailand mostly trades in Thai Baht, other countries allow trade in several currencies.
        I would add massive corruption by the police and government departments.
        Constant changing rules and regulations for foreigners.
        The Thais as a race refusing to change policies despite the fact they are not working.
        It is their refusal to lose face and admit they were wrong.

        Source Bangkok post 5th of August.
        The report concludes: a warning that Thailand is facing economic turmoil . . .
        And now the Thai fools accelerate their economic decline by affectively banning tourism, thereby reducing their GDP by up to 12.91.

        • Avatar

          Issan John

          November 13, 2020 at 8:34 pm

          That’s not remotely what the Bangkok Post of 5 August said.

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        Khun plastic

        November 12, 2020 at 4:20 pm

        That’s the published figures.
        Do not underestimate the amount of untraceable cash that changes hands in the sector.a quick look at the amount of people queing at currency exchange booth’s in any tourist area should put any doubts about that to bed.
        Also factor in the amount of money transferred by overseas sponsors to there tilacs generally by untraceable western union and the 30 percent figure starts to look pretty reasonable.
        If you reside where you user name suggests you would have to be blind to have not noticed whole villages devoid of females of age group 20 to 40 ish.
        Nobody in the villages appear to work but nobody is starving and most places have a nice car parked out the do you think that works then.
        Daughter working at 7/11 in Pattaya and remitting her extra hard earned baht to mama and papa!yeah right!

        • Avatar

          Issan John

          November 13, 2020 at 8:31 pm

          Not “devoid” of “20 to 40 ish” females at all!

          While farangs in Pattaya and Phuket have this bizarre idea that the whole of Issan is reliant on bar girls (and boys) sending money home to keep their extended families going, it’s absolute nonsense. It’s a complete myth!

          The reality is that while it happens, for every bar girl / freelancer sending money home (and far from all do), there are a dozen or more working in factories who DO send money home on a regular basis, usually rather more generously.

          That’s what’s had a noticeable effect in the villages as production’s dropped and OT’s been reduced.

          That’s how it “works”, and why outside Pattaya and Phuket Thais don’t care about the sex tourists not coming but they want the factories to keep working as normal. Sorry.

      • Avatar


        November 13, 2020 at 11:22 am

        Maybe the 11 and 12% is true in the reported economy, however, easily 20%+ if the shadow economy is taken into account. There’s so much money that is unaccounted for, and not taxed moving around Thailand.

  8. Avatar


    November 10, 2020 at 3:46 pm

    Check out the Australian named Jamie McIntyre. Apparently he is now offering $10,000,000 to anyone who can prove convid actually exists!
    Line up! That’s a cool ten million buckaroonies! And the first taker is….?

    • Avatar


      November 13, 2020 at 11:18 am

      Hmmmm, $10,000,000 AUD, what’s that in real money. Just kidding.

      • Avatar


        November 14, 2020 at 7:34 pm

        Not sure RA, but if it’s even half the amount in $US, and if you had proof that all this malarkey is factual, why would anybody not go for it?
        There’s people everywhere here and there everywhere not using critical thinking it seems and going along blindly with what they’ve been told on the media….and actually believing it.
        Sad times are these unless the veil of deceit is lifted (and I am praying for that day!)….
        And even then, many good people will still walk abound like programmed robots with their diapers/nappies on their face.
        This Jamie McIntyre has some big round balls and why you’ll never see his name mentioned on TV. I read yesterday that all mention of his offer was banned on YT. 😉

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Read more headlines, reports & breaking news in Phuket. Or catch up on your Thailand news.

Bill Barnett has over 30 years of experience in the Asian hospitality and property markets. He is considered to be a leading authority on real estate trends across Asia, and has sat at almost every seat around the hospitality and real estate table. Bill promotes industry insight through regular conference speaking engagements and is continually gathering market intelligence. Over the past few years he has released four books on Asian property topics.

Coronavirus (Covid-19)

The Thai tourism new normal, learning to live with the pandemic

The Thaiger



The Thai tourism new normal, learning to live with the pandemic | The Thaiger


by Julian Spindler

Thailand’s world-class tourism industry, one of the twin drivers of our economy, is in a deep, coronavirus-induced coma, close to death.

No life support is currently available. Pandemic paranoia has gripped the nation, freezing our bio-security risk management in full containment mode, meaning zero tolerance for local Covid-19 transmission. The socio-economic, and some might add political, impacts of this crisis are huge. If both direct and indirect contributions are included, tourism represents some 22 percent of GDP, according to Fitch Solutions, and as much as 25 per cent of employment.

The ongoing collapse of this vital pillar of the economy means massive and growing unemployment, potentially amounting to 4-6 million people, a wave of bankruptcies, both among SMEs and larger corporates, and untold misery among our huge informal workforce. These are the millions of food vendors, masseuses, taxi drivers, hotel clerks and, yes, sex workers, who together make up the vibrant and welcoming grassroots human infrastructure that last year attracted 39.8 million visitors, making Thailand the world’s 9th most visited tourist destination and Bangkok the world’s most visited city.

This closed-door public health security policy is not sustainable. According to the Bank of Thailand and international rating agencies there can be no recovery of our economy without a recovery of tourism, and no recovery of tourism without foreign tourists who account for at least 65-70% of the total industry.

To open or not to open, this is question being hotly debated in the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), and its newer economic counterpart, the Centre for Economic Situation Administration (CESA), which currently run the country. The outcome to date, the much anticipated Special Tourist Visa (STV), satisfies only the public health voices in the debate. With its 14 day quarantine requirement, many other impractical hoops, and an initial limit of 1,200 foreign visitors per month, the zero tolerance, no local transmission risk profile is being maintained.

If this continues, Thailand’s tourism industry will die.

Let’s be very clear, only a quarantine-free welcome for foreign visitors can deliver the numbers needed to resuscitate the industry. The STV will allow 40 tourists a day to enter the Kingdom; in 2019 daily arrivals averaged nearly 110,000.

How to open safely?

This is the great conundrum facing Thailand and many other countries around the world for whom travel and tourism is a major economic driver.

We cannot wait for vaccines. They stand no chance of eliminating the disease globally. The idea that the only way to eliminate the threat of this disease somewhere is to eliminate it everywhere is simply misleading.

A more realistic solution is to be found in the words of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) European Director: “The end of the pandemic is the moment that we as a community are going to learn how to live with this pandemic.”

Enter the tourism industry’s new normal: Learning to live with the pandemic.

Learning to live with Covid-19 in Thailand means accepting there might be local transmission, accepting some people might get sick. It means opening our borders again, and quarantine-free entry for foreign tourists, albeit under controlled conditions.

If our Prime Minister has the courage to order the CCSA to make this policy shift, from total containment to managed risk, even as Covid-19 continues to ravage countries around the world, he should understand Thailand will not be alone. Many governments and many components of the international travel and tourism value chain are already rushing to construct the infrastructure necessary to rescue the industry from a global collapse.

For Thailand the first step must be to undo the pandemic paranoia conditioning affecting the whole country so people understand why we have to manage the risks and how we can do this safely, without overwhelming our health care system.

The second step is for all Government agencies and the entire tourism industry value chain to recognise the new normal requires maximum flexibility. For the government bureaucracy this means a dramatic change of mindset, from creating barriers to easing access. For the industry, it means no cancellation fees and full refunds, every step of the traveler’s way.

Keeping this new mindset front and centre, one can identify two types of visitors Thailand can manage for the foreseeable future: Those who are willing to accept and pay for 14-day quarantine, and those who are not.

For the former, the doors should be flung wide open with minimum barriers. Why not? After all this is zero risk for our country.

No restrictions on countries of origin, no pre-paid accommodation requirements and Covid-19 health insurance only for the quarantine period. Digital nomads, snowbirds, returning expatriates, long-stay tourists, businessmen, medical tourists, all should be welcome. The only requirement: A certifiable negative Covid-19 test less than 72 hours prior to flying. Visas-on-arrival for as long as you want should be the order of the day, even year-long-stay visas with a work permit, for a modest sum, say US$1,000.

This new welcoming mindset would generate a small but useful and humane increase in essentially risk-free arrivals so it must be accompanied by a rapid increase in Alternative State Quarantine (ASQ) accommodation throughout the country and in airlift capacity. Simplifying entry requirements would also largely obviate the inter-agency bickering that has bedevilled the STV to date.
Making it even more welcoming, for those who can prove they already have homes here, would be the self-quarantine option, as currently practised in Hong Kong. On arrival, visitors are given another rapid Covid-19 test and if negative, equipped with a GPS tracking wristband and escorted to their registered place of residence, where they remain for 14 days. The tracking devices are monitored to make sure visitors don’t stray.

However, STV arrivals alone will not save our tourism industry; only quarantine-free entry will.

Here’s how it can work, safely:

Enter the much maligned “travel bubble”, quarantine-free travel from countries and areas with low Covid-19 transmission rates to, at first, designated areas in Thailand that aim to be virus free.

Travel bubbles require close, multi-agency cooperation and coordination at both ends. They aim to be bi-lateral, reciprocal agreements. This is why it is so vitally important that our twin Covid-19 nerve centres, and the Cabinet, make a formal decision to open quarantine-free travel in principle as soon as possible, so all the criteria and arrangements can move forward quickly.
Looking at the Thai end of the travel tunnel first, we need to select leading tourist destinations where access can be controlled. Initially that might mean Pattaya, Hua Hin, Phuket, Samui and nearby islands, and Koh Samet.

For these areas the CCSA should instruct the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) to undertake systematic, large-scale surveillance testing and tracking to cover all residents and migrant workers who are likely to come into contact with tourists. All those tested will be given a health status and tracking app, which will be updated as regular testing continues. Eventually the app will also record vaccination status

Responding to epidemiologists’ war cry that testing, testing and more testing is the key to living safely with the pandemic, large-scale testing would represent a major policy change for the MOPH. To date, Thailand has had a very low rate of testing, even lower than poorer countries like the Philippines and Indonesia. This must change if we are to open travel bubbles safely.

While these preparations are being undertaken for destinations where access is easily controllable, the CCSA and CESA should be working with all relevant agencies to assess the viability of opening additional travel bubbles to other key destinations as quickly as possible.

At the same time Safety and Health Administration (SHA) standard certification must be accelerated to cover virtually all facilities in the travel bubble destinations.

The aim is to reassure foreign visitors of these destinations’ near virus-free status during their stay, a claim which should be underlined by offering free Covid-19 health insurance for the duration of their stay. The CCSA and CESA should also start to develop the new more sustainable tourist ecosystems that meet the public health requirements needed to manage the Covid-19 risks in the longer term.

The next step is deciding which countries, and in some cases like China, which regions or cities, we will link up with.

These decisions must be data-driven, not withstanding diplomatic preferences, so as to allow a high degree of automaticity. As Covid-19 infection rates change around the world so will our allowable travel bubbles.

To manage epidemiological risk, the criteria and thresholds for identifying our travel bubble partners must be clearly defined. Thailand could adopt an approach similar to that being developed for the EU where the travel and tourism sector is screaming for harmonised travel regulations.

Published two months ago, the industry’s European Tourism Manifesto urges the EU to replace the need for quarantine with comprehensive, cost-effective testing and tracing, to avoid blanket restrictions by using more granulated data to better target specific areas, to not impose restrictions on passengers in transit, and to ensure the interoperability of contact tracing apps.

For Thailand to consider, the current European Commission criteria and thresholds dictate countries should not restrict travel from other countries with fewer than 25 new cases per 100,000 people over the previous 14 days, and a test positivity rate of less than three per cent provided the weekly testing rate exceeds 250 tests per 100,000 people. There are other criteria that could be considered, and thresholds can be adjusted, but this will be for Thailand’s epidemiologists to decide, once the political decision to open our borders for quarantine-free travel has been made.

Now that we have the tools to select, on a risk-managed basis, our travel bubble partners, we need to accurately monitor the health status of the individual tourists from these countries.

One possible tool is already a work-in-progress with at least 40 countries collaborating to launch Common Pass, a standard global framework enabling people to document and present their Covid-19 status, in a way that participating governments can verify, to facilitate safe border crossings while protecting individual data privacy, in effect a Covid-19 passport.

Common Pass, currently being tested internally on flights between London and New York, and Hong Kong and Singapore, is being developed by The Commons Project, a Swiss not-for-profit, in partnership with the World Economic Forum.

Common Pass aims to answer four questions that are vital for managing epidemiological risk with quarantine-free travel when our only protection is a very recent negative Covid-19 test. These are…

• How can a lab test result or vaccination record from another country be trusted?

• Is the lab or vaccination facility accredited?

• How do we confirm the person who took the test, or received the vaccination, is indeed the person who is traveling?

• Does the traveler meet border entry requirements?

Thailand is not currently participating in Common Pass. We should be. Each participating country needs to decide two things: Which centres for Covid-19 tests, and vaccinations, are deemed credible in their country, and their own border entry requirements. After the individual foreign traveler inputs their test results, the app will do the rest and when presented to airlines or border controls will show if the bearer is fit to enter.

Common Pass expects to become fully operational in early 2021. Until then, with no standard certifiable system for Covid-19 tests in place, we might decide to deploy the rapid 15-minute antigen tests that are coming onto the market at our airports as additional protection against less than reliable foreign test results.

Meanwhile, our multi-agency Tourism Recovery Team should be very busy negotiating travel bubbles with individual countries that currently meet our epidemiological criteria for quarantine-free entry. Given bureaucratic inertia, this will be a time consuming exercise but it is the only path to tourism survival.

We have already engaged with China for the STV. Now, we would do well to open discussions with Singapore, and learn from Singapore, as it has ASEAN’s most proactive policies for reopening international travel, including quarantine-free entry for travellers from Brunei and New Zealand since September 1. With hard work and goodwill on both sides we could hope to see Singaporean tourists arriving before the end of the year.

When Covid-19 started to spread across an unprepared world early this year, Bangkok and Thailand both ranked number one in terms of anticipated impact severity. The first case of the virus outside China was recorded here, and during the first three months, before the lockdown, nearly three million Chinese tourists visited. But our world-class public health security system, ranked sixth in the world prior to the pandemic, and the willingness of the Thai people to put community first, enabled us to manage the potential disaster to the point where today Thailand is regarded as an outstanding example of successful pandemic management.

We have now had six months to further strengthen our public health capacities across the board. It is time for the government to leverage this world-class public health security ecosystem and save our world-class tourism industry and the many millions of citizens who depend on it.

Julian Spindler is a strategic communications consultant and long-time resident of Thailand. Since arriving in Thailand in 1969, Julian has worked as a journalist, editor, publisher and strategic communications consultant. Today he specialises in sustainability issues, crisis communications and strategic planning.

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Police violence against democracy demonstrators – letter from Human Rights Watch

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Police violence against democracy demonstrators – letter from Human Rights Watch | The Thaiger


In response to Tuesday’s protests outside the Thai Parliament, and the police response, Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, responds. Published in full…

Unnecessary Use of Water Cannons, Teargas; 55 Reported Injured

Thai police unnecessarily used water cannons and teargas against peaceful democracy demonstrators outside the parliament in Bangkok on November 17, 2020, in violation of international human rights standards, Human Rights Watch said today.

At about 2.25pm, police attempted to prevent a demonstration organised by the People’s Movement from reaching the parliament, where a debate on constitutional amendments, including possible reforms to the monarchy, was underway. Human Rights Watch observed crowd control units using water cannon laced with purple dye and an apparent teargas chemical, as well as teargas grenades and pepper spray grenades to disperse thousands of demonstrators, including many students. The dispersal operation continued until the demonstration ended at about 9pm Protests on November 18 proceeded without violence.

On November 18, the spokesperson for United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres “expressed concern about the [human rights] situation in Thailand … it’s disturbing to see the repeated use of less lethal weapons against peaceful protesters, including water cannons … it’s very important that the government of Thailand refrain from the use of force and ensures the full protection of all people in Thailand who are exercising a fundamental peaceful right to protest.”

“The Thai authorities should heed the advice of the UN Secretary-General and stop using excessive or unnecessary force against demonstrators, while preventing violence by any group so the situation doesn’t escalate out of control,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“The Thai authorities should promptly and impartially investigate the violence, including the alleged use of firearms by pro-government demonstrators, and prosecute all those responsible for abuses regardless of their political affiliation or rank.”

At least 55 people were injured, most from inhaling teargas, according to the Bangkok Emergency Medical Service. The injured included six democracy demonstrators who suffered gunshot wounds during a clash with pro-government ultra-royalist groups near the protests.

The Thai government should transparently and impartially investigate all aspects of the November 17 violence, Human Rights Watch said. This should include an inquiry into the circumstances and decision-making process for the extensive use of water cannons and teargas by the police against peaceful demonstrators. The Thai government should be clear that its rules on the use of force by law enforcement comply with international human rights standards and are strictly followed at all times.

Under the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials and other international human rights standards, law enforcement may only use force when strictly necessary and to the extent required to achieve a legitimate policing objective.

The 2020 United Nations guidance on less-lethal weapons in law enforcement states that “Water cannon should only be used in situations of serious public disorder where there is a significant likelihood of loss of life, serious injury, or the widespread destruction of property.”

In addition, water cannon should “not target a jet of water at an individual or group of persons at short-range owing to the risk of causing permanent blindness or secondary injuries if persons are propelled energetically by the water jet.” In line with international standards, teargas should only be employed when necessary to prevent further physical harm and should not be used to disperse nonviolent demonstrations.

The Thai government has shown increased hostility toward democracy demonstrations, which started on July 18 and later spread across the country. Demonstrators have called for the resignation of the government, the drafting of a new constitution, and an end to harassment for exercising freedom of expression. Some of the protests included demands to curb the king’s powers.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported that at least 90 protesters currently face illegal assembly charges for holding peaceful protests in Bangkok and other provinces since July. Some protest leaders have also been charged with sedition, which carries a maximum seven-year prison term, for making demands regarding reforms of the monarchy.

International human rights law, as expressed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand ratified in 1996, protects the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. But Thai authorities have routinely enforced censorship and stifled public discussions about human rights, political reforms, and the monarchy’s role in society.

Over the past decade, authorities have prosecuted hundreds of activists and dissidents on serious criminal charges such as sedition, computer-related crimes, and lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) for the peaceful expression of their views. In addition, over the past six months, the authorities have used emergency measures to help control the Covid-19 pandemic as a pretext to ban anti-government rallies and harass pro-democracy activists.

“The Thai government should end the police crackdown on peaceful demonstrations or risk further unnecessary violence,” Adams said.

“Concerned governments and the United Nations should publicly urge the Thai government to end its political repression and instead engage in dialogue on democratic reforms.”

You can read more from Human Rights Watch HERE.

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High season? What high season? Thai tourism has a gap year.

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High season? What high season? Thai tourism has a gap year. | The Thaiger


High season. What’s happening to Thailand’s traditional tourist high season this year?

(Sounds of crickets and tumbleweed rolling down the streets)

Just as last year’s high season was wrapping up, the Covid-19 pandemic became real and much of the world closed its borders in March. Thailand hoteliers, tour operators and airlines had to endure a very quiet low season, obviously a lot lower than usual. But with the next high season looming the prospects of a sudden surge of tourists is slim. And thousands of businesses that were holding out for a bounce back over the traditional busy tourist season will now have to wait even longer.

The mandatory 14 day quarantine and copious paperwork, despite all the best intentions, is simply too much of a burden for the overseas visitors that might want to travel to Thailand. The uptake of the much-hyped Special Tourist Visa has been dismal. Now the Tourism Authority of Thailand and the Ministry of Sports and Tourism have again scheduled a talkfest with the country’s leading hotel groups because, well, they don’t know what to do.

It’s simple. The hotel groups will say we need to find a way to re-open the borders and manage the Covid situation into the future. The public servants will nod in agreement and say they’ll “look into it”. There will be another ‘proposal’, and nothing much will change. Thai government officials seem to be waiting for the magic pill, a viable vaccine, to provide the safety net for a re-opening of the borders.

Meanwhile, the Thai government is caught inside a travel bubble of its own making. A travel bubble of ONE.

Around the country leaders in various industries are looking, assuringly, to the Thai government for leadership and a way forward. But as the 2020/2021 high season kicks in, there is only another 3 months of almost zero tourism on the horizon. Whilst Thais are being stirred out of their provinces with stimulus packages to stay in hotels and eat at restaurants, most aren’t travelling far and the hopes for a domestic-tourism-led recovery are fanciful at best.

Bryan Flowers is the CEO of the Night Wish Group based in Pattaya, owners of some of the town’s most popular bars. He’s vaguely hopeful but says they’ve been struggling.

“Unless the visa situation lightens, quarantine is scrapped and flights are increased, we do not expect a high season, 50% of our sales are online now, maybe that will increase if people have time off.”

“We really hope we can catch a high season in December but the general consensus is things wont get back to normal until after Songkran, of which we normally hit our lowest sales of the year in June-July,But I expect some huge momentum in traffic coming into Thailand once the quarantine is dropped totally.”

Scot Toon, the MD from The Pavilions Hotels & Resorts, Asia, says they’d hoped to start welcoming back tourists to Pavilions Phuket back in August.

“Like many we have made changes to our operations but maintained the five star standards of the resort we have focused heavily on the Thai market and insured that we changed our offerings to meet the needs and wants of this key market. We have found that the Thailand travel agents especially the ones that used to focus on inbound or outbound travel is now changing their focus on driving thai business to local destinations.”

“We have worked closely with domestic focused travel partners And have seen great pick up and bookings for October, November and December. Although nowhere near full it is helped us to reduce the burden of cash flow and move forward and grow our business from the zero base of being closed.”

“Long term we look forward to borders opening as there is not nearly enough domestic business for all the hotels in the island.”

Bill Barnett, MD and senior consultant for, says this year’s high season is proving to be a ‘gap year’ for the industry.

“It’s a bit like a Bear Grylls episode of hotel managers parachuting into the jungle, rife with danger at every corner and a hike out o the wilderness into the light, and promise of the vaccine. Hard yards ahead but there are some green-shoots out there and Thailand will bounce back, it’s just a matter of time.”

But nothing short of a broad re-opening of the borders, along with dropping many of the restrictions and paperwork, will save Thailand tourism. But the country’s health officials are saying the risk is too great, especially as much of the world is now experiencing a major surge in new cases and deaths caused by Covid-19.

And even if they fling open the borders tomorrow, who would be coming? The volume of the world’s travellers have been reduced to a trickle and, around the world, international flights are few, and expensive.

Some of Thailand’s larger tour companies and hotel groups will be able to hang in there, surviving on limited re-openings of rooms or just keeping the doors locked and sacking staff. Smaller businesses have either already closed up shop or will not be able to weather any further extension of the tourist drought.

In Chiang Mai the weather is starting to cool with crisp mornings and evenings making the northern city a popular tourist hot spot through December, January and February. In Phuket, the wet season is over and the skies glow bright blue with cooling breezes and long stretches of clear beaches. In Bangkok the Christmas decorations are already up at shopping malls awaiting the flood of international tourists for the high season.

But the fate of this high season is already sealed and the return-to-normal simply isn’t going to happen. Whilst much of the tourism and hospitality industry thought that this year’s 2020/2021 high season would signal the start of a ‘new beginning’, it’s just turned out to be the beginning of a long haul for Thailand’s industry players, and the thousands they employ.

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