– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community
PHUKET: China This year, laborer Fan Fu and 20 or so colleagues working on the Zixia Garden apartment complex in Hebei province have not joined China’s legion of migrant workers returning home to celebrate new year with their families.
Instead, they have camped in the offices of the property developer’s subcontractor, demanding almost a year’s unpaid wages and too angry and proud to go back to native towns and villages empty-handed.
With China’s economy growing at its slowest in 25 years, more workers face Fan’s predicament and labor unrest is on the rise, a concern for Beijing as it seeks to avoid social unrest even as financial pressures build.
“The developer has kept using the fact that they have no money as an excuse. As of now they haven’t paid us a single penny,” said Fan, who brought others from his home town in the western province of Sichuan to work on the apartments.
“We really don’t have any other options,” he told Reuters in the subcontractor’s offices, crowded with bedding and personal possessions.
The group had earlier petitioned local authorities for redress and staged protests outside government offices in Qian’an, a city in Hebei in China’s north.
When water and electricity were cut to the dorm where they lived, the subcontractor allowed them to move in temporarily.
Fan and about 530 other workers on the apartment project are owed paychecks of between 20,000 and 50,000 yuan ($3,000-$7,500). They said the government had offered each non-local laborer 2,000 yuan in cash if they left for the holidays.
The developer, Qianan City Xinyuan Real Estate, did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment on the protests and the unpaid wages. The Qian’an government said they were looking into the issue but declined to give details.
While the housing sector is among the worst-hit in China’s economic slowdown, the pain is being felt by blue- and white-collar workers in other industries.
According to Geoffrey Crothall of the Hong Kong-based group China Labour Bulletin, which tracks worker issues, there was a spike in protests in the last quarter of 2015.
Its data show that in December and January, there were 774 labor strikes across China, from 529 in the previous two months, most of them over wage arrears.
At a printing factory in the western city of Chongqing, a Reuters reporter was present when a local official visited last week to make sure the boss paid his workers before the Year of the Monkey begins.
The official declined to speak with Reuters, although the boss later said it was an attempt to prevent unrest.
“That’s (unrest) what the government is most fearful of,” said the factory owner, who did not want to be named.
Chongqing authorities gave no immediate response to faxed requests for comment.
China’s senior Communist Party leaders, including President Xi Jinping, have long championed workers’ rights, and are often photographed visiting factories.
The government is concerned that protests over issues like unpaid wages could spill over into broader dissatisfaction at its rule, as it has derived much legitimacy over the past decades from delivering a higher standard of living.
Before the holiday, Beijing issued a notice calling on local authorities to “seriously investigate all incidents of wage arrears, so that migrant workers would be paid in a timely manner and in full,” the state-run Workers Daily newspaper reported.
Over the past few months, however, authorities have arrested at least seven labor activists in Guangdong province in the largest crackdown on organized labor in China in recent years.
China’s state Xinhua news agency accused the men of running illegal non-governmental organizations that had been “severely disrupting social order”. China’s Foreign Ministry said the cases would be handled “in accordance with the law”.
BONUSES CUT, FACTORIES SHUT
As travel ramped up ahead of the holiday, beginning on Sunday, it was not only construction workers who prepared to celebrate with less money in their pockets.
An online survey by the job recruitment company Zhilian Zhaopin said two-thirds of more than 10,000 white-collar workers it surveyed were not expecting Lunar New Year bonuses.
In Dongguan, a city in the southern province of Guangdong known as a manufacturing hub, some factories sit idle behind locked, rusty gates, with advertisements pasted on their walls seeking new tenants.
Some of those still in business were withholding bonuses until after the Lunar New Year, workers, factory owners and recruiters interviewed by Reuters said.
Brothers Zhang Guantian, 23, and Zhang Guanzhou, 21, quit temporary, hourly paid jobs at two plants, one making earphones, the other computer cables, to go home for the holiday.
“It’s hard to find a permanent job now,” said the elder Zhang, while waiting for a bus with two large suitcases.
Still, he is hopeful of finding another job when he comes back to Dongguan in mid-February.
“My aim is to find a permanent job after Chinese New Year, something I like. But it will be difficult.”
— Phuket Gazette Editors
Tale of two cities – Hua Hin vs Pattaya
by Kornrawee Panyasuppakun
Property buyers looking to buy a seaside villa or condo in a coastal town in Thailand, relatively close to Bangkok, confront one question – should I buy a property in Hua Hin or Pattaya?
And rightly so, because these two choices have similar aspects. Both have kilometres of coastline, good beaches, and are just a couple of hours away from Bangkok – 3 hours for Hua Hin and 2 hours for Pattaya. They also have good year-round weather, large expat populations, and are some of the best places in Asia for water-sports and playing golf.
Yet, each place suits buyers with different lifestyles and goals.
Town or City?
If you want a laid-back beach town feel, Hua Hin is the right choice. If you like to live in the middle of action, with a greater range of things to do, Pattaya is the winner. It is simply more established and has a longer development history in terms of western-style villas and condominiums.
Hua Hin has a population of around 100,000 plus a growing tourist reputation. The lazy town offers long, sandy beaches that run 5 kilometers along the coast and are not fully obstructed by high-story condos on the beach, due to building regulations.
Hua Hin may not be the best place to swim in Thailand, as the sea-bed is a bit rocky, but it makes up for it with clean beaches, dedicated beach cleanup groups consisting of locals and expats, and regulations which, among others, restrict commercial tourism on the beaches on Wednesdays, and town planning which controls high-rise along the coast.
Hua Hin also suits those in search of a peaceful getaway because the town does not have a seedy reputation and is far from any industrial enterprises. This is thanks to a strong tradition of royal patronage and residence in the district, such as Mrigadayavan Palace and Klai Kangwon Palace, the latter is owned by the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX).
Nevertheless, the town has a growing reputation for restaurants and new attractions for tourists; it is a favourite resort town for Thai upper-class and Bangkokians who like to go to Hua Hin on weekends.
Check out the largest selection of properties in both towns HERE.
Pristine beaches of Hua Hin, larger and longer than Pattaya
Pattaya, on the other hand, is home to almost 400,000 people, plus plenty of international tourists. The city is highly developed and has a higher density of high-rise buildings along the coastline and many great sea-view villas on the hillside, both of which are harder to find in Hua Hin due to the tighter building regulations.
During the day, the beaches in Pattaya attract sun worshippers and all different types of water sports, from kitesurfing to waterskiing. At night, Pattaya’s Walking Street is an international adult entertainment playground. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find a quiet place in Pattaya. There are less-popular beaches like Jomtien Beach and nearby islands like Koh Larn and Koh Samet.
Pattaya is part of Thailand’s eastern seaboard, the Eastern Economic Corridor, meaning the city is situated close to Thailand’s main industrial facilities and sea ports, as well as airports like Suvarnabhumi Airport, which is around an hour and a half away by car. It also has its own airport about 40 minutes from town called U-tapao International Airport.
The famous sweeping coastline of Pattaya, a haven for nightlife and entertainment options
Holiday home, Retirement, or Investment?
Hua Hin and Pattaya are both highly qualified for holiday home buyers with an impressive choice of villas and condominiums. But Hua Hin is better known for retirement and Pattaya for investment.
Hua Hin has been named as one of the best retirement locations in Asia by countless surveys. It offers a high standard of living, great golf courses, first-class restaurants, quality medical care, close proximity to Bangkok, as well as “the big foreign community that connects through reading clubs, festivals, cycling clubs, soccer leagues, wine tastings and darts tournaments,” wrote the US News and World Report in 2019.
Foreign property buyers are those who buy a holiday home or a retirement residence. Most are from western countries, especially those from Scandinavia, Germany and England. Many buy in Hua Hin to spend the winter with their families, rent out when they are away, and eventually live there when they retire. Also, a hi-speed railway will soon be built to link Hua Hin with Bangkok, which will make travelling to Bangkok airports even more convenient. It already has a multi-lane highway, train and bus services.
Pattaya is a popular choice for investment. It has a large and growing tourism industry, with over 12 million tourists last year, as well as a healthy mix of nationalities, including Israeli, Russian, European, Indian, and Chinese, making its tourism less susceptible to change from a single demographic.
Additionally, Pattaya is part of the Eastern Economic Corridor, the Eastern seaboard that targets high-tech industries and attracts foreign direct investments, especially from Japan. It is also linked to Bangkok airports, sea ports, and main industrial facilities in Chon Buri and Rayong by the upcoming hi-speed rail. Plus, the city itself is positioned as an international medical hub.
Overall, a stream of foreign tourists and business travellers means a steady source of income for investors. Those who buy the property to rent out short-term and long-term can enjoy a realistic Return On Investment of about 7 – 8% year. In Pattaya you can already see investors from Western countries as well as Asian countries, from China to India and the Middle East.
There is an excellent selection of international-standard golf courses in Hua Hin
Both offer a cool selection of eateries, shopping malls, and activities, but if compared by the variety of choices, Pattaya is the hands down winner.
That isn’t to say that Hua Hin doesn’t have plenty of options. Most buyers in Hua Hin like to play golf and enjoy the outdoor spaces – town is one of the best golfing destinations in Asia. There are also first-class Thai and international restaurants, a huge eco-friendly water park, and several night markets that sell fresh seafood and local crafts, like Hua Hin Night Market and Cicada Market.
Furthermore, Hua Hin has stylish shopping malls like Blueport and Market Village, the latter of which offers so-called “you hunt, we cook” options. You can also try the new Latitude Wines at a vineyard in Hua Hin or head to a cool bar that offers familiar labels.
Pattaya may be infamous for its red light areas and nightlife – go-go bars, beer bars and nightclubs – but that is not the only side of Pattaya. In Pattaya you can find quality lifestyle with a burgeoning choice of family options and entertainments.
It offers a range of Thai and international cuisines, from award-winning restaurants with amazing views, sky bars, and Italian wine bars, to family-run restaurants, 100% vegan places, and local seafood. It also has a range of options to entertain people with different budgets.
Pattaya also offers lots of chic shopping centees like Terminal 21 Pattaya, Central Festival Pattaya Beach and Central Marina. There are also lots of family-friendly choices like water parks and museums, in addition to a wide range of extreme sports, such as Muay Thai, kitesurfing, waterskiing, and skydiving. You can also go snorkeling or plan a day trip to nearby islands like Koh Larn and Koh Samet.
In both cities, you can expect to find theatres with international blockbusters and supermarkets that sell western products. And there is a daily ferry between Hua Hin and Pattaya (during high season).
Expat families can find an excellent international school in both cities.
Hua Hin has a couple of options for expat families. With quality education and great sporting activities, Hua Hin International School, for instance, is one of the choices that follows the national British curriculum and the IB program, and recruits teachers from the UK. There are also several bilingual programs available.
Expats in Pattaya have more choice when it comes to international education. There are several internationally-recognised international schools with excellent facilities like hi-tech campus, drama studios, and a big theatre. Some of the best schools are St Andrews International School, Regents International School, and Tara Pattana International School.
Hua Hin and Pattaya offer high-quality hospitals that cover basic and advanced medical care and cater to patients with different budgets.
Top private hospitals in Hua Hin are, for instance, Sao Paulo Hospital which caters to lower budgets, and Bangkok Hospital Hua Hin which is part of the renowned BDMS group. These hospitals both offer quality specialist care including cardiology, urology, and orthopaedics, to name a few, and English is widely spoken.
For Pattaya, top hospitals are Bangkok Hospital Pattaya, Pattaya International Hospital, and Pattaya Memorial Hospital, with Bangkok Hospital Pattaya charging the highest fees. Also, as Pattaya is recognised as one of the best medical tourism centres in Thailand, and the region, there are tons of tourists flying to the city for medical care, and hospitals employ staff who are fluent in various languages.
Bangkok Hospital Pattaya, for instance, has interpreters in more than 20 languages, including Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish.
The bottom line … It depends on your goals and lifestyle. If you want a peaceful hideaway with grand royal history, or are a golf enthusiast, you may choose a property in Hua Hin. If you want to a city that is always switched on, close to investment areas and airports, and has lots of leading international schools and shopping malls, you may like Pattaya more.
“Don’t extend opening hours to 4am” – Tourist zones
“Think again about extending pub opening hours to 4am in tourist areas”.
That’s the advice from Dr Mohamed Fahmy Tale, an advocate for alcohol control, directed to Thailand’s tourism minister, Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn.
Manager Online says that he wants the government to focus more on safety rather than encouraging more drinking.
The Tourism and Sports Minister, Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, had proposed an extension of official opening hours in tourism locations like Pattaya, Phuket, Chiang Mai and Koh Samui. He claimed that the tourism economy would be stimulated by as much as 25%, without providing any evidence to back his remarks.
(In reality many of the more popular venues are already open well past the 2am curfew with the ‘co-operation’ of local police and officials.)
But Dr Mohamed Fahmy Tale, who proposes measures to tackle Thailand’s alcohol problems, disagrees.
In an opinion piece in Manager Dr Mohamed says that he was “shaking his head” when he read the proposals. He claims the proposal would “set Thailand tourism back and put it in the klong” (canal).
He said that tourists don’t decide where to visit based on alcohol availability. He said that Thailand already has the moniker of the “Tourist Sex Capital“ and there are far better ways to move forward and counter this perception rather than extending opening hours.
He said that Thailand has more than enough culture and environmental wonders like sea and mountains to take tourism in a new and more favourable direction and that the government should promote that.
He said that his surveys showed that safety is a tourist’s number one priority and the government should focus on improving that too.
He urged a rethink saying that the minister’s claims about closing times in Italy were broad brush remarks. Italy has a great deal of difference from one city to the next, he said and could not be compared to Thailand.
SOURCE: Manager Online
Hua Hin property market stabilises
The condominium market in Hua Hin is returning to a “balanced state” thanks to a slow down in the launch of local developments in the coastal town. This follows the opening of many developments in 2011 and 2012, causing demand to fall behind the supply.
Knight Frank Thailand’s director of research Risinee Sarikaputra says that in the middle of 2019, the supply of condominiums in Hua Hin totalled 26,886 units.
An average of 1,120 new condominium units were put on sale annually between 2016 and 2018, as operators began to delay the launch of new projects in the Hua Hin area because of the oversupply.
In 2011 and 2012, new condos were being launched at a rate of 6,000 units per year, resulting in reduced sales rates of 45% in 2011 and 56% the following year. That same period also saw operators engage in price wars by devising various promotions to boost sales. Many operators had to delay the launch of their projects and some projects were cancelled altogether.
Around 22,000 condominiums have been sold in the Hua Hin area out of a supply of 26,886 units, a sales rate of 83%. The lowest sales rate was in 2011. The sales rate increased to 71% in 2015 and 78% in 2017.
The area with the most supply remaining includes Cha-am, with about 3,376 units available for sale while the areas with the least amount of available supply are Hua Hin and Khao Takiab, with only 254 and 295 units remaining, respectively. The sales rates in Khao Takiab and Hua Hin are 92 and 89%, respectively.
Risinee said that the main buyers in Hua Hin are still Thai people looking for a holiday home for their weekend breaks, and they may rent the units out when they are not there. Foreign customers who buy condominiums in Hua Hin only account for 10% of all buyers; this buyer group consists of foreigners from Scandinavian countries, China, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Faz Waz CEO Brennan Campbell says they welcome stability returning to the Hua Hin property scene.
“The coast certainly blossomed over the past decade and the early enthusiasm from developers produced an over-supply. Now we’re seeing developers launching better projects and the market having more realistic expectations. It’s a much better market now for developers and buyers.”
In terms of the price of condominiums in Hua Hin, the average selling price of a condo with sea views is currently 131,494 baht per square metre. This increased 2% from the end of 2018.
The price of a sea view condo falls within the range of 107,000-176,000 baht per sqm. Lower-priced units are usually those that have only partial sea views or are not directly facing the sea.
The average selling price in Hua Hin tends to be higher than other areas. For units that do not have sea views, the prices range from 60,000-90,000 baht per sqm. In the first half of 2019, the average selling price of units without sea views was 73,685 baht per sqm, reflecting an increase of 2% from the end of 2018.
SOURCE: The Nation | Knight Frank Thailand
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