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Pirates of the Andaman

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Pirates of the Andaman | The Thaiger

PHUKET: In the 1930s, the Thai government used the Andaman island of Tarutao as a prison to incarcerate the country’s most undesirable criminals. When the Japanese Imperial Army brought the Second World War to the footsteps of the kingdom in December of 1941, the Thai government under Field Marshall Phibun Songkram sided with the invaders against the allied forces (click here for article of Thailand’s paradisal prison).

To a certain extent Phibun admired the Japanese and sympathized with their cause. In return for Thailand’s friendship and cooperation, the Japanese had promised to return Thai territories that had been seceded to Britain and France during the late 19th century. When British Malaya fell to the Japanese invaders in 1941, four Malay states, Terenganu, Kedah, Kelantan and Perlis, which used to be under Thai dominion, were returned to Thailand as promised by the Japanese.

Most of the information hereafter is based on a book written by Pongpol Adireksarn, a well-known Thai politician and author of several novels based on Thai history. Better known amongst westerners by his pseudonym Paul Adirex, in 1994 Pongpol wrote a book called The Pirates of Tarutao, based on actual events that happened in the penal colony during the Second World War.

From 1942 onwards many allied prisoners of war were imprisoned on Tarutao Island on orders from the Japanese. Before the war started, food and supplies were regularly shipped to Tarutao from the mainland to sustain the prisoners and the wardens. When war broke out the British navy aggressively blockaded the Malay Peninsula, sinking any ships that dared to deliver supplies to their enemy. As the war dragged on supplies on Tarutao Island began to diminish. Food and medical rations were reduced. Prisoners of war, common criminals and wardens, began to starve alike. The prison system soon began to break down.

During that time there may have been more than 10,000 inmates detained on Tarutao Island. According to Pongpol many high profile political prisoners had already been removed from the island and transferred to Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand, for fear that they may be liberated if the British captured Tarutao.

Out of hunger and desperation, the remaining prisoners took to begging from boats that carried supplies past the island. Guards and inmates were on their own fighting for survival. The number of deaths from starvation and malaria continued to grow day by day.

As the situation continued to worsen and it became clear that simply begging from passing boats was not going to sustain them for long, several inmates banded together and turned to piracy. Initially the inmates attacked boats in order to steal food and medical supplies.

But when it became apparent that the naval powers were too busy fighting each other to safeguard the high seas, the pirates became more audacious and violent. Many more inmates and even prison guards took to piracy. Soon they began to attack ships indiscriminately, stealing all the cargo that the vessels carried. The prolonged war had carved out a huge black market for goods that were in short supply all over the region. As they attacked the passing vessels, the pirates would plunder them of their valuable cargo. Often they would murder the passengers and crews. The boats were then set on fire and sunk to the depths of the sea.

The beautiful landscape of the island; coasts, estuaries, creeks, rivers and narrow channels served to conceal the deadly marauders. According to reports from passing vessels, travellers soon began to fear for their own safety when passing the archipelago as vicious rumors of pirate attacks began to spread throughout the region. Ships that traveled between Penang, Satun and Kantang were vulnerable when they came close enough to Tarutao Island. The pirates also began setting up land bases on Langkawi Island, just south of Tarutao, using motorboats as well as sailboats to intercept merchant vessels.

The war in the Pacific ended in September 1945. After Japan surrendered to the allies, peace returned to the high seas and blockades were lifted as Malaya and Singapore returned to British rule. During this time several merchants in Penang began to lodge complaints with the British Navy about the unabated piracy problem in the Andaman Sea.

Between December 1945 and March 1946, the British Navy launched a large-scale operation to clear the Strait of Malacca of its pirate infestation. At first the British simply used patrol boats to accompany merchant ships along the trade route. But they soon began to actively intercept pirates on the high seas and engage them. British efforts soon drove the pirates back to their bases on Tarutao and Langkawi Islands. In March 1946 the Thai and British navies conducted a joint operation and raided the penal colony of Tarutao.

According to Pongpol, three warships and over 300 troops stormed Tarutao Island in order to arrest the inmates and prison guards that were suspected of piracy during the war years. The raid turned violent and many pirates died in the ensuing fight.

When the joint British-Thai forces managed to secure the island again, order was restored and the inmates were returned to their former prison conditions. A new prison governor was also appointed to manage the prison. The penal colony would survive for another year or so.

In 1947, the Tarutao penal colony was formally closed down. For decades after that the island would remain deserted. The thick tropical forest soon grew to assimilate the prison facilities, the cells, the offices and the kitchens. It would be years before backpackers would venture out to find Tarutao Island again, and put it on the tourist map. By then most of the physical evidence of its horrific past had been erased by nature, leaving behind a clean slate to start over for what would become a very different future for Tarutao Island.

Anand Singh is an avid Phuket historian. To contact the writer click here.

— Anand Singh

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Thai Life

STUDY: Daily marijuana use increases risk of psychotic disorder

The Thaiger

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STUDY: Daily marijuana use increases risk of psychotic disorder | The Thaiger

The legalisation of medical-use marijuana continues to sweep across the globe, recently in Thailand where the roll-out and enactment of practical uses of the new legislation are underway.

But this spread of a new legal credibility of the drug continues whilst possible health risks (or benefits) are not fully understood. Properly medically supervised or scientifically conducted studies continue to come out weekly with varied results about the benefits or dangers of long-term cannabis use.

According to new research published in ‘Lancet Psychiatry‘, a weekly peer-reviewed general medical journal, people who use cannabis daily, as well as those who use high-potency weed, may be three times more likely to develop psychotic disorder than never-users.

The new evidence is consistent with previous experiments that suggest heavy use and high THC concentration cannabis – a 10% concentration of THC (the psychoactive substance within cannabis) or higher – can be harmful to mental health.

Dr. Marta Di Forti, lead author and a clinician scientist at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London said the ‘Psychotic disorder’ was precisely what was studied.

“We are talking about people who meet diagnostic criteria and come to the attention of mental health services to receive treatment for psychosis. So they have to have symptoms of psychosis across the spectrum – hallucination, delusions – that have lasted at least for a week.”

Currently, medical cannabis is legal in most European countries, though recreational use is only legal in Netherlands, Czech Republic and Spain (in certain situations). Meanwhile many other countries continue to discuss legalisation.

Di Forti and her co-authors pf the paper looked at data from five countries in Europe… UK, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy and France. Brazil was also included in the sample where cannabis is illegal.

They found 901 patients with a first-time episode of psychosis over a five-year period and compared them to 1,237 matched non-patients.

Daily use of cannabis was more common among patients with psychosis compared to the controls, they found. About 30% of patients reported using cannabis daily compared to just 7% of non-patient controls. And use of high potency cannabis was also more common among patients than controls – 37% compared to 19%.

The study results do not provide enough information for her to say “use only this amount, only this often” to remain safe.

At this stage, the paper estimates one in five new cases of psychosis may be linked to daily cannabis use, and one in 10 cases linked to use of high potency cannabis.

You can read the full report in Lancet Psychiatry.

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Air Pollution

Chiang Mai ‘s tourism holds up despite smoke and smog

The Thaiger

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Chiang Mai ‘s tourism holds up despite smoke and smog | The Thaiger

Chiang Mai’s current poor air quality and smoke haze is raising concerns on the potential impact on tourism as Thailand’s Songkran water festival approaches.

Smog has been a yearly occurrence in Northern Thailand, but this year the situation appears to be the worst with Chiang Mai topping the air pollution ranking and the media tracking daily results.

But La-iad Bungsrithong, president of the Thai Hotels Association (Northern Chapter), says there appears to be a short-term decline in the market.

However, she attributes the current performance to March being part of the traditional low season rather than the pollution, adding that there has been no booking cancellation from leisure or MICE guests.

The Songkran festival typically sees leisure demand for Chiang Mai from South-east Asia, Europe, China and Thailand. According to La-iad, room occupancy in April last year was 65 per cent, reaching 85 per cent during the Songkran period (April 12-14).

She expects similar figures for Songkran this year but also greater competition arising from new hotels around Chiang Mai and Airbnb.

Similarly, a spokesperson of Standard tour, Somchai Sandnee, said the company’s business has not been affected by the air pollution. Chinese tourists are less perturbed by smog issues than political turmoil and recent events such as the boat accident in Phuket last year, Somchai pointed out.

Chotechuang Soorangura, associate managing director of NS Travel & Tours, also says he doesn’t see the smog having an impact on sales.

“The smog is considered an annual situation and our company always (issues) an advice to customers. In the case where customers really want to visit Chiang Mai, we will suggest they limit their stays in the city in favour of other provinces instead such as Sukhothai,” Chotechuang explained.

SOURCE: ttgasia.com

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Bangkok

Top Five things to consider if you’re buying a condo in Thailand

The Thaiger

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Top Five things to consider if you’re buying a condo in Thailand | The Thaiger

Not quite a Top Ten but some good straight-talking about buying condominiums in Thailand from Desmond Hughes from Hughes Krupica

One of the most commonly read or spoken summary of foreign ownership of property in Thailand is along the lines of

“Foreigners can buy a foreign freehold condominium in their name”.

At this sentence, many foreign investors switch off, and assume that the rest of the detail provided by the author may be legal mumbo jumbo or a thinly veiled attempt to win their business.

In fact, there is quite a lot you should know about Thai condominiums, before you start property hunting. As my clients don’t generally spend their time reading legal journals and legislation unless they have to, I have set out a mixture of legal and practical matters below without much distinction:

1. Only 49% of the Registrable Area of a condominium can be sold to foreigners.

In Bangkok, this is not likely to have any impact on you. Most of the buyers and owners of condominiums in Bangkok are Thai nationals. Even in condominiums popular with foreigners, it is an uncommon phenomena that foreigners would ever outnumber Thais as owners in a building. You might ask why the rule even exists, but there is a fear and protectionism in many Asian countries, not just Thailand, to try and keep foreigners ‘controlled’ through numbers and perecentages.

In other places – Phuket; Pattaya; Koh Samui; Chiang Mai and Hua Hin particularly you should apply caution to ensuring that the correct ‘quota’ of foreign units is available to be sold to you on a freehold basis.

2. Banks often advertise they will give finance, even potentially to foreigners, but in the end – don’t

I speak from personal experience and from that of my clients. For my first condo investment in Bangkok, I had to take out a loan with HSBC which was then taken over by a Thai bank. My loan had to be in foreign currency, because in order to buy a foreign freehold condominium – you have to send foreign currency into Thailand from overseas to generate ‘foreign exchange transaction forms’ to register the title to a foreigner at the land office. This means a lot of hoops for a bank to jump through simply to provide a mortgage. Foreigners are also viewed as flight risks by Thai banks and they do not wish to spend their time chasing foreign assets. This all means that a very high percentage of the foreign buyer market is cash based, which is good for the stability of that part of the condo market.

If you are tempted to try and take out finance applications to banks, be aware that the banks are looking for you to have some business in Thailand; perhaps to be married to a Thai national who preferable from the bank’s perspective will have some degree of wealth for self-support; and that you have other assets in Thailand with a history of using and paying off credit such as credit cards.

3. There is an oversupply of condominiums in Bangkok at the moment and rental yields are traditionally low in terms of % compared to more expensive Asian neighbors – Hong Kong and Singapore, and further afield

A condo in a prime rentable area at a high investment price can remain rentable due to its extremely useful location and amenities. If such condo has a 24 hour supermarket in the basement of the retail area and dozens of restaurants, as a condo building I am thinking of does have such amenities, then it will remain rentable for some time if the property is maintained. However, another condo at the end of the same ‘Soi’ and post building and delivery could remain unrented after many months and even if the rent is cut to 50% of the market price. Don’t just take my word for the state of the market for condo rentals in Bangkok, ask the agents.

In addition to this, the authorities are taking a closer eye at tax declarations and ‘cracking down’ on undeclared taxes – not just personal income tax, but the ‘business tax’ of 12.5% for renting units out. This all adds to the costs of investing and renting in a condo, and you must calculate this into your budget and forecasts to avoid living in fantasy land about dream returns.

3. You won’t have any say in how the condominium is managed

Unless you buy up over half of the voting rights attached to units in the entire building, you will be a minority voice on issues like the raising of the common area fees; use of the ‘sinking fund’ – the fund to make capital repairs, changes to the rules and regulations and general maintenance decisions, even of some significance. Don’t imagine standing up at an co-owners meeting voicing your opinions and somehow making headway in ‘changing’ the direction of the management of a building. The way in which a building is managed boils down to how the developer has structured ownership, whether the developer retains many units and a large % of the voting rights or not, and whether the developer plans to self-manage or outsource management of the asset to a reputable or not-so-reputable management company.

If you don’t check the management plan then I can reference lots of analogous situations where you would take more care – if you buy a car, you should think if there are any decent repair centres nearby and at a reasonable price – Ferraris in Phuket aren’t currently easy to maintain, I would imagine, as a non-Ferrari owner and observer of the state and condition of the roads in that Province. You also wouldn’t, I hope, buy a smart phone without knowing you could have the phone service, fixed and various parts replaced on reasonably short notice. As a property is a far higher value of investment, a lot of investigation into the management plan is necessary.

4. Don’t Believe the Hype – It’s a Sequel

False Media, we don’t need it do we? If you see a glossy marketing brochure and are told that the developer ‘has to deliver on its promises by law’ – be wary. To take one example, I bought a condo under which a ‘private wine cellar area with personal secure wine bottle storage space’ would be provided to every buyer. Amazingly, without any shame at all, the famous developer constructed an unchilled cheap wooden cabinet with glass doors, no locks next to 4 sofa chairs in the open space corridor between a swimming pool and the gym. If you wanted to fry an egg on the ‘wine cabinet’ then that was highly likely to have been possible.

These kind of things are not all ‘horror stories’ – I actually got a decent condo notwithstanding the missing items. However, you will often have to compromise when in more highly regulated and supervised jurisdictions, you would not. Compromise is a very common work in Thai society and it applies to business and consumer purchases too.

5. Set up your ownership for easy re-sale

If you are buying a condo as a ‘foreigner’ and paying cash, then you can buy your condo through a foreign company, and sell the company later. This is only worth doing if the cost of setting up and maintaining the foreign company is reasonable and the company you set up is ‘saleable’ and attractive to others. You should not carry out this kind of structuring to ‘avoid tax’. However, you can set up this kind of structure, pay tax on the purchase, and subsequently deal with your company as you see fit, provided a buyer is willing to buy it. If such a company receives rental income, then even if it is foreign it is till liable to taxes as the use of the ‘immoveable property’ for generating revenue isn’t deemed to be ‘outside’ of Thailand, and that applies even if the company tries to contract for and receive the rent outside of Thailand.

Desmond Hughes has operated and owned 2 law firms in Asia in 14 years spanning Thailand; Vietnam; Indonesia with clients in all of Asia and other markets investing inwards into the region with his existing firm Hughes Krupica possessing a large market shares in its fields of expertise. 

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