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Letter to President Donald Trump

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Letter to President Donald Trump | The Thaiger
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OPINION

John Magee was the owner of The Thaiger’s predecessor, the long-running Phuket Gazette. As a US citizen and longtime Republican, he’s penned a letter to the US President Donald Trump…


November 7, 2020

Dear Mr President:

Let me propose something to you in the simplest possible English, with no word exceeding ten letters or five syllables.

As an American now in his 51st year of residence overseas, the last 29 of which have been in Thailand (no; not near Taipei), I’m a bit sensitive about what “foreigners” think of our great nation. Generally, I feel it might be a bit negative, so that’s why, over the past four years, when asked, I’ve been telling the guy in the seat next to me on airplanes that I’m from Canada. A pity to have to do that.

While I’ve benefited personally – thank you – from your regime with respect to the U.S. Stock market and federal tax policy, the damage you have done to our economy, to race relations, to national health, to our trust, to our friends and allies overseas, to our image, ‘ethos’ and, above all else, basic behavioral standards, speaks for itself.

A couple of years ago I read an editorial in a British journal that presented a list of reasons as to why the English don’t love you as much as you might have thought. The list was of course lengthy, but apart from the underlying theme, which focused on your deficiencies in the matter of fair play, the writer noted that, ‘We Brits like a leader with a bit of a sense of humor’, and he lamented greatly that you don’t have one.

Why is this? Why is it that we never see you smile? All we ever see are your smirks, scoffs and snickers at those who do not share your views. No empathy, no mercy or mirth. Are you hiding something?

I write you now at the risk of losing a couple of good friends who support you, but fortunately these friends have both mirth and the ability to recognize that we’re all fallible (can you imagine that?) in our beliefs about what’s best for the world, so I hope our friendships will survive and defeat your crusade to tear us all apart.

Well, the election came and went and you lost it. So can we do a deal? You bow out graciously and retain whatever dignity you think you still have. And I, along with what we now know is the majority of other Americans, can feel more comfortable – not only with “foreigners”, but also – and even without a gun – my fellow countrymen.

With all due respect,

John Magee

Republican

Phuket, Thailand


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46 Comments

46 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Darryl Hubbard

    November 8, 2020 at 9:35 am

    Thank you for dealing with this issue with what I assume was a small dose of restraint…

    That said at the beginning of your Op/Ed where you stated you were or are a life long Republican my first thought was oh no here we go. So I also extend my thanks for helping me identify that we all (obviously including myself) should let the stereotypes go and remember that we are first and foremost Americans. And though our opinions about the path we should take to reach what should be our mutual goal”A better Nation” we all love our country…

    • Avatar

      Shane Barge

      November 11, 2020 at 8:00 am

      Thank You!

  2. Avatar

    lootarzoon

    November 8, 2020 at 10:22 am

    Very correct, as a golfer I agree on dismissing “the Commander in cheat” and was over & deeply deppressed when I read our Idol, Nicklaus to support such a fake mental.

    • Avatar

      Patrick

      November 9, 2020 at 1:51 am

      What a load of old Tosh. Republican my arse. Trump won that election by a country mile. 800,000 up in Pennsylvania and mysteriously mail in ballots that they won’t allow to be scrutinised roll on from where? All for Biden. Impossible. The same with Georgia and the same with every other Corrupt Dem state, and they’re all corrupt. Just like the scam Russia hoax. Total fraud. Trump was without doubt one of the best presidents America has ever had. Racism. Bullshit. Go and sell lefty crazy somewhere else.We’re all stocked up over here.

      • Avatar

        David

        November 11, 2020 at 6:44 pm

        Did you write a letter to Al Gore when he challenged the election results of 2000, 37 days beyond Election Day, and took it all the way to the Supreme Court? I doubt you were ever a Republican. I know plenty of Democrats who pull that same stunt to give themselves more credibility when attacking the president.

      • Avatar

        RA

        November 13, 2020 at 11:31 am

        You’re really full of that “Kool-Aid” aren’t you? You can’t prove even one of the statements you’ve made. Trump will easily go down in the top 5 worst presidents ever. He continues to prove that to this day. And I’m a HARDCORE Republican.

  3. Avatar

    Tim

    November 8, 2020 at 10:48 am

    Well said, every word of it. Thanks for this John

    • Avatar

      Nils

      November 8, 2020 at 12:28 pm

      Well Said ,a Swedish republikan.Thank you John.

  4. Avatar

    Ron Abernathy

    November 8, 2020 at 10:48 am

    Dear Mr. Magee,
    May I say, as a fellow American and Republican, WELL SAID and thank you. The damage done to the Office of the President will take time and courage to repair. I hope the Dignity and Respect can be restored to the Oval Office.

    • Avatar

      Jack

      November 11, 2020 at 12:31 pm

      A motorcycle gang is a democracy. End the nation state, let the people be free. Stop coercing me to comply with your world views.

  5. Avatar

    Dave

    November 8, 2020 at 12:36 pm

    Great stuff, I’m sure he’ll read it. Regardless, he would be used to dealing with pompous, self-righteous preachers.

    You are aware that the majority you speak of absolutely hate your guts, right?

  6. Avatar

    Paul

    November 8, 2020 at 12:36 pm

    I would first like to say I am not an American but as the author of this hit piece has suggested Trump has belittled the U.S. abroad I can say with quiet conviction this is by no means the case. Yes the MSM will let you think this but these are quite often global concerns and do not reflect the will of the people. Brexit in my country was a perfect example of this. I am a Brit who also lives in Thailand and would like to say I have yet to meet someone who does not agree with his views even if his modus operandi is sometimes quite odd.

  7. Avatar

    Issan John

    November 8, 2020 at 1:00 pm

    Regardless of whether his policies are good or bad, Trump’s made America and Americans the laughing stock of the world, and while having 47% of the vote may not be enough to win the election it’s more than enough to maintain their position as the world’s least respected and most ridiculed nation.

    • Avatar

      RA

      November 8, 2020 at 2:49 pm

      And your comment is also more than enough to maintain your position as the least respected and most ridiculed commentator here.

  8. Avatar

    Francis

    November 8, 2020 at 1:40 pm

    Very well said.

    Sadly Trump, can’t or will exit gracefully, I guess handcuffed he’s removed from “his White House” the 20th January 😁

    • Avatar

      Harry Paratesties

      November 12, 2020 at 10:15 pm

      Drinking the media Kool-aid, are you? Man, you are filled with hate.

      The election isn’t decided and even if it was- he is still president for a few more months.
      The media doesn’t decide the election.

  9. Avatar

    Mike

    November 8, 2020 at 1:51 pm

    To all my brothers and sisters who screamed in horror when he first put his hand up – and kept screaming that Trump was pure poison, I can say quite honestly and with no joy whatsoever – we told you so.

  10. Avatar

    Iain

    November 8, 2020 at 3:34 pm

    John well written I have US friends who feel the same really just gob smacked at the antics of the last four years.
    Trump has done immeasurable damage to many other countries as well.
    As I an Aussie I see now due to trade wars with the US, China has turned on Australian exports as we are an ally with the US. We are an innocent bystander hurt by the turmoil of the last 4 years.
    We may have handled the virus and the damage to the economy but China retaliation will be worse.

  11. Avatar

    sam thompson

    November 8, 2020 at 4:10 pm

    I doubt that there is a chance Trunp will bow out gracefully because he is not capable of doing so. I read a really persuasive article which suggested that he has a personality disorder which apparently cannot be treated [unlike mental illness]. He is a malignant narcissist which is displayed in his lack of conscience [psychopathy], an unusually frail ego with an insatiable need for adulation [the narcissism], incapable of empathy or guilt, shame, experiencing higher level feelings, understand and respect higher level values. Evebn if only a little bit of this is accurate [and it sounds pretty fair] then this is not a man who is capable of reacting within the correct norms of expected and desired behaviour.

    • Avatar

      David

      November 11, 2020 at 6:48 pm

      You read a hit piece against the president that is total BS. Did you take issue with Al Gore fighting the election results of 2000? He fought for 37 days, and took it all the way to the Supreme Court.

  12. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    November 8, 2020 at 5:02 pm

    Being a Brit I shall not comment on the political affairs of the great USA.
    It is not my place. It is not my right.
    I wish others citizens who are not American would show the same restraint and good manners.
    The USA is a great country whoever is president.
    I have been in 45 States.

  13. Avatar

    Don R

    November 8, 2020 at 5:13 pm

    Of course a “life-long Republican” would prefer Biden.

    Young, liberal votes are really fooling themselves if they’re celebrating.

    If you look at the demographic groups who flipped to support Biden, and if you look at the policies he campaigned on, it’s nothing less than a win for elderly conservative suburban white voters.

    This is also reflected in the older age of Democratic candidates, Dems’ coziness with the powerful tech industry, and Dems’ consistent preference to cater to suburban professionals over their own progressive base. At the same time, under Trump’s leadership, Republicans expanded their support among the working poor.

    If these trends continue, the two parties could swap roles. Democrats will increasingly become the party of big business and upper-middle income professionals, while Republicans will become the party of the working poor and minorities.

    Why anyone under 30 would vote for Democrats at this point is beyond me, and I’m a life-long liberal Democrat. They’re selling out their own base to become the new GOP, and it was easily predictable.

  14. Avatar

    Brian

    November 8, 2020 at 6:40 pm

    Fool. If you’re not aware of the fraud issues, you’re not informed. Trump has a duty to try to ensure that the election is legitimate. He is now doing that. If you feel annoyed about Trump, take it up with your therapist or something.

    • Avatar

      Jack B. Nimble

      November 8, 2020 at 7:50 pm

      Brian, I couldn’t agree with you more! Trump is crass and not very “soft” when dealing with those trying to “get over” on the US. Then again, his message was unlike every other President since Reagan, America First! No more weakness bowing to leaders! What a weak and racist guy Obama was. Weak indeed. I’m so sick of America always bailing everyone out. America should be first, dominant, in control of our own economy (just look at that market and laugh all the way to the bank as I have!) My question to all these “farang” hanging out over here is: HAVE you been paying your taxes or are you ready to relinquish your citizenship to stay over here for all these years…

  15. Avatar

    Dolph RIP

    November 8, 2020 at 7:33 pm

    Trump will be missed once China takes over SE Asia, he is the only leader willing to stand up to them. Just ask the Urgers!!!

  16. Avatar

    Independent Voter

    November 8, 2020 at 7:34 pm

    And Biden is the solution? He’s pathetic. Ignoring that fact:

    Complainers with no solution are as bad as your description of Trump, whether it’s politics, business, the media or every day life.

    If the law was broken, shouldn’t it be investigated? Do you trust the likes of Soros, Clinton, Pelosi, etc? Their most recent comments should answer that question. I hope you never find a similar predicament.

  17. Avatar

    Jack vale

    November 8, 2020 at 7:42 pm

    Trump will be missed very soon! Back to corruption and dirty deals very soon. China will soon take over.

  18. Avatar

    AMOZ

    November 8, 2020 at 7:44 pm

    Reality is we are Not Republican or Democrat – that in itself is being racist. We are All Human – and rarely do we find anyone on this planet that actually acts Humanely. They did not like JFK – They Killed Him – They didn’t like Ronald Reagan – they tried to kill him. The didn’t like Abraham Lincoln and they Killed Him. From the Beginning of His Presidency – the opposition has been trying to kill Trump – one way or the other. What are the opposition afraid of ? He rocked the Boat, stirred up a Political Hornets Nest full of rabid politicians bent on filling their pockets with behind the scene deals while the average American suffers. You don’t see Maxine Waters even showing up in her own district in California and it’s one of the worst / poorest in the state. Yet she lives in her 6 Million Dollar Home telling us what is right and wrong – just remember when you point your finger at someone else Maxine – you are pointing three fingers back at yourself. My Father was a WW2 Veteran, was in the Submarine Service and was one of the Subs that Escorted the BB63 Missouri into Tokyo Bay and watched the Surrender of the Japanese. He as well as millions of others fought for the Freedom that were fought for at Yorktown, Valley Forge, Trenton by George Washington and the original 13 Colonies. You are throwing that precious freedom away. This is why I have spent more than half my life living outside the USA and even acquired Citizenship in other Free Nations because I saw a long time ago what political cronies were doing to what should be so precious to everyone on this planet we call Earth ( Liberty & Freedom ). Graduated High School in 1968 and My Classmates are as worried as I am that those freedoms will soon perish. Fight for what is Right – In God we Trust – Not Joe Biden.

  19. Avatar

    Independent Voter

    November 8, 2020 at 7:45 pm

    Thank you for deleting my different view of the situation. Sounds a little like the situation in America.

  20. Avatar

    John

    November 8, 2020 at 7:50 pm

    Mr Magee,
    As a Canadian I object to you hiding behind the Canadian flag.
    Get a backbone.
    I too cringe when I am reminded of who is present prime minister and chief lisr, commander sparklesocks trudeau but I do not go running to hide from my nationality.

    John L

    Libertarian

    Udon Thani

  21. Avatar

    HARRY TRUMAN

    November 8, 2020 at 8:29 pm

    I say why bother about this –no president is perfect–no citizen is perfect. Anyone who is an American can see in this election there is the greatest democracy in the world. The facts are that 70 million people voted for Trump and he was eelcted once –something only 45 other people have done. so stop the CNN speak. respect the office of the president, go to the pub like they do in England and have a few.

    • Avatar

      HARRY TRUMAN

      November 8, 2020 at 8:32 pm

      And if the yanks cant field a better caandidate than Joe next time, Trump will be re-elected. Just wait……just finished my first beer.

  22. Avatar

    Tony Larkins

    November 8, 2020 at 8:35 pm

    why did they take Harry Truman’s comments down?

    • Avatar

      Tony Larkins

      November 8, 2020 at 8:39 pm

      it seems that any pro trump or balanced view is being censored on this site as i see soem comments which are not at all out of line being taken down

  23. Avatar

    JohnG

    November 8, 2020 at 10:10 pm

    Ridiculous that people don’t care about voter fraud and the entrenched political and media corruption of the deep state that Trump fights for the American people, and the world. Those of you that decide to dislike the person and ignore his achievements deserve a life of servitude without freedoms.

    Man up, boys and see the bigger picture.

    I’m a Brit and I only hope one day the UK will find someone like Trump to drain the historically deeper swamp for us.

  24. Avatar

    Leo Z

    November 8, 2020 at 11:25 pm

    It’s interesting that if he had wrote this letter about the Thai PM, for example, he would be facing “retribution” now, in many different forms. But perhaps he’s lived in Asia too long, speaking about “regimes”….he should know.
    In addition, he can’t explain how this President that he mocks is not supported by a clique of thugs or a circle of “deplorables”, but by about 71 million voters. Compare that to an election where he may have voted in the US back in 1984, when Reagan got 54 million votes.

  25. Avatar

    Nick

    November 9, 2020 at 2:06 am

    Wait a minute!! Biden is not yet a President!! Did you all know about the fraud that the democrat has done? This is what happen when you only listening and watch the main stream medias that not only bias but trying to distroy President Trump at all cost!! I would predict that from next week the US supreme court is going to decide who will win the President not the medias. May God protect the United States Of America!!

  26. Avatar

    john

    November 9, 2020 at 3:42 am

    America is headed toward civil war.

  27. Avatar

    Peter

    November 9, 2020 at 11:46 am

    tRump’s ego is a study of mania.

    HOWEVER, after the dust settles, the world will see that tRump had the guts to to stand up to bullies.

    Even though many would accuse him of being a bully, he did not start any wars, he was the only one to talk with North Korea and he gave China a real hard kick up the back-side.

    Im glad he’s gone, but we should give him credit for the above.

  28. Avatar

    Nawin

    November 9, 2020 at 3:39 pm

    I am not by far a believer in both candidates, but T. made far too many promises to start off with which weren’t all fulfilled. Saying that, why this B character has been seen on occasions (on film you can check it out on the internet) snuggling into young girls hair and whispering something in their ears which makes them back off from the creep! He doesn’t look like someone I would leave a child with after such antics! Plus, he has forgotten what he was saying half way though sentences.

  29. Avatar

    Thomas

    November 9, 2020 at 9:06 pm

    John,
    I feel sorry that you feel the need to continue the negative campaign that has been a four-year strategy by the democratic party. You obviously have bought-in the the media frenzy, a for-profit business that generates fear and panic that has divided our nation.

    I encourage you to research the facts and then publish your thoughts that are policy-based.

    You, and every American should be concerned and embrace an investigation into ballot fraud, regardless of party affiliation. I hope with all sincerity that an investigation would find that ballot fraud is not a factor in this election, otherwise we as Americans are not free to choose who we elect for president.

    I respect your right to your opinion; however, please know that you do not speak for all Americans.

    Kind regards,

    Thomas

  30. Avatar

    Joseph McKee

    November 10, 2020 at 11:12 pm

    I never heard a positive comment from the media about Trump. Say what you will, but Trump did try to close foreign military bases and return troops to the USA.
    This created many antagonists from the Pentagon to foreign leaders who rely on the US to protect their countries and contribute to their GNP. He paraphrased Eisenhower’s exit speech. He stood up to China when no one else would. The tried to normalize relations with North Korea. He lowered US taxes and boosted market prices, etc. Possibly the reason he never smiles is because of the constant attempt to impeach him. From Russian collusion to Ukraine scandals the Democrats never stopped with the constant efforts to discredit him.

  31. Avatar

    Sam

    November 11, 2020 at 10:19 am

    The USA is a stain on Democracy! With a party that supports a madman in the WH! RIP USA

  32. Avatar

    AI

    November 12, 2020 at 3:45 pm

    I hope I am wrong about this. But it seems that this is all heading towards a civil conflict and possible war.
    Didn’t that monster Kissinger say back in 1991 something along the lines of “Today Americans would be outraged if U.N. troops entered Los Angeles to restore order; tomorrow they will be grateful!”

    To my American brothers and sisters, don’t let it go that far because that will be walking blinded into the hands of very evil “people.”

  33. Avatar

    David

    November 12, 2020 at 10:04 pm

    Dear Mr. Magoo;

    AS a proud American, when I am challenged about President Trump,I cite the long list of accomplishments of the president and tell them I voted for him and support him fully. If they don’t like it, they can move away form me.
    I am not an American with weak knees. I don’t feel the need to placate anyone from any country. Its none of their business who is president. They can go to their leftist rathole countries and stay there.
    You have been away from the USA for a long time and it shows just how out of touch you are with what has been happening for a very long time.

    You’re an American? Then you should know your constitution which you clearly don’t. The election isn’t over. There is no winner as of this posting. The media doesn’t decide who wins except in the minds of brainwashed fools like yourself. There is a process- its outlined in the constitution and we are following it accordingly.

    You’re a republican? Republican in name only.
    You’re an American? American in name only. The word lick-spittle comes to mind when I read what you wrote.
    What kind of wimp has to hide the fact that he is an American?

    If we had more people like yourself during WW2 we would all be speaking German or we’d be a lampshade.

    Even if Beijing Biden turns out to be the winner when the court proceedings are decided and the election is certified, I just consider it a 4 year break for President Trump. I look forward to voting for him in 2024 as we will have quite the mess to contend with if the leftists and the Manchurian candidate in office.

    Thank You, President Trump for for 4 great years and I look forward to 4 more- even if there is a break in between.

    MAGA

  34. Avatar

    lpe88 agent

    November 20, 2020 at 5:52 am

    Stunning story there. What happened after? Good luck!

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

No vaccine, no entry – the world’s next travel challenge

The Thaiger

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No vaccine, no entry – the world’s next travel challenge | The Thaiger

OPINION

UPDATE: Australia’s national airline has already said it will impose “proof of vaccine” on all inbound and outbound international flights, a situation that IATA says they are likely to follow. Read more HERE.

ORIGINAL POST: With the announcements this week about several vaccine candidate trials, either being completed or at the end of their Phase 3 testings, and the applications to government bodies for ‘emergency approval’, we now have to face the next question.

What restrictions will be imposed on those people who don’t have the vaccine, or even actively choose not to have the vaccine?

And more locally…

Will Thailand allow people to enter Thailand without first having the Covid-19 vaccine?

Given the Thai Government’s low-risk strategy, well almost zero-risk strategy, and reluctance to take any chances with a second wave of Covid 19, it is highly likely there will be a stipulation that anyone entering Thailand will need a vaccine certificate or stamp in their passports.

Couple this with the Thai population’s continued fear of allowing foreigners back into the country at this time, in poll after poll, and it’s a safe bet there will be a “no vaccine, no entry” restriction imposed.

On a positive note, the Thai government may drop the 14 day quarantine for people that have had the vaccine (but not in the early days).

At this stage we know that most of the vaccine trials have had a 95% efficacy. We also know that the leading BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine needs an original jab plus a booster and has to be transported at extremely low temperature.

To complicate matters, there is not yet sufficient evidence that having had a bout of Covid-19, whether asymptomatic or not, guarantees you immunity. Or, if it does, for how long?

All these factors will mean that some level of quarantine will probably be in force as the Thai government slowly re-opens its borders to a wider groups of vaccinated travellers. This would remain in force until the world has a better knowledge of both the proven efficacy of the vaccine, or vaccines, and the re-infection rates.

So, even if we start getting groups of the world’s populations vaccinated before the end of the year, and that’s still a very big IF, there’s a lot more water to pass under the bridge until a coherent, reliable vaccine strategy can be understood and implemented.

Then there will be a rump of people, either hard core anti-vaxxers, or others who are at least skeptical of a new vaccine, who will want to wait or not want the vaccine at all. Public education, some strong science and a successful roll out of the early vaccines will be a key to winning over a lot of the world’s population.

Somehow governments and health authorities are going to have to wind back much of the disinformation floating around the internet about vaccines that is so factually out of whack with reality, it’s going to be one of the greatest public health challenges of all time, to reassure people about the science of vaccines and vaccination.

All this, in the middle of a pandemic that, for now, is still on the ascendency as far as new cases and deaths are concerned.

But there is little doubt rejoining the world of international travel, even local travel, could become restricted to only those who are vaccinated. The rest will be stuck roaming around their own countries, or states, for… years with a raft of restrictions on their lives. Who knows.

Will shopping centres or public buildings also impose a “no vaccine, no entry” policy? Hotels? Public buildings? Job applications?

On top of the economic stress which has fallen on a lot of the world, with so many governments now facing the headwinds of deep recession, the vaccine ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ will add even more public disquiet.

At this stage nobody is sure how the vaccine will be rolled out in Thailand. The Thai government has already signed up for several of the leading vaccine candidates and will most likely provide the vaccine for free to citizens under its public health system.

What does that mean for foreigners living here? If you are covered, with a work permit, under the country’s public health, are you able to get the vaccine for free too? Will the thousands of foreigners on private health insurance be covered?

Surely the insurers will want its customers to be vaccinated. Sick customers cost them money. So, will insurance renewals be limited to only people who have been vaccinated? Will visas be renewed only if you have been vaccinated?

At this stage there are no firm answers to any of these questions.

Added to all this confusion, there is more than one vaccine, and some of the vaccines work in a different way than others. So do airlines and governments and shops and hotels and bowling alleys allow one vaccine through their doors but not another?

We’re certainly now entering a new phase of this pandemic. New challenges, new questions. The rising numbers of cases throughout 2020 is only the first chapter of a book that will be many more years in the making.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

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

The Thaiger

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

OPINION

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

OPINION

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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