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Phuket

Visa run to Penang – a personal experience

Tanutam Thawan

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Visa run to Penang – a personal experience | The Thaiger

This story was one person’s experience of the visa process in Penang. It should not be regarded as ‘typical’ or even used as a guide. But we provide Jim’s journey as warning to do your homework before embarking on getting or renewing your visa.

Be aware that this seemingly simple trip to the former ‘Pearl of the Orient’ in Malaysia is not just a matter of paperwork to enable you to stay in Thailand – you unwittingly become embroiled in a major industry involving hundreds of on-the-ground staff who, you guessed it, are in for a ‘cut of the action’.

This isn’t merely a paperwork formality, it’s an industry. For whatever reason the process is made sufficiently opaque that you will eventually need one of these resources.

If you’re lucky enough to have a Thai employer do pay for your visa and organise paperwork, you’re halfway there.

Alerted by ‘Jim’, not his real name, The Thaiger dug deeper to uncover a highly developed underground business, full of layers and commissions, all of it undeclared to the poor sods who make the journey to Penang to renew their visas or are in the process of getting a new one.

Jim ended up paying more than 40,000 baht for a process he could have completed by himself for a fraction of the cost. The kick, however, is the complexity of the Thai visa process and the seemingly random necessities you will find on different days or speaking to different staff.

“I wasn’t prepared for the layer of hiccups I had to sort out. You need to be brave to attempt any of this on your own,” said Jim.

“I’ve already paid 40,000 and now told I have to go back to Penang again in 90 days for another part of the process. I’m confused and annoyed.”

This was Jim’s first time to get a visa. He says he wanted to do it properly and the confusing and contrary information found online did little to help.

So he went to the source, or so he thought. He explained to us, among his adventures, that he visited Phuket Immigration three times trying to ascertain specifics about the paperwork he required and received three quite different answers about requirements and necessary papers he would need.

Being over 50 one staff member kept pushing him to apply for a ‘Retirement’ visa but Jim wanted to work.

Going to the website, or quoting the official immigration website, did little to clarify the situation. In fact the official Phuket Immigration website is in Thai, not much help when all Jim spoke was English. Don’t believe us? Check it out HERE.

Visa run to Penang - a personal experience | News by The Thaiger

There are two ways of traveling to Penang from Phuket – road or bus. By road you either need to drive yourself or take one of the hundreds of passenger vans that ply the well-worn roads in the Visa Run business each week. Jim described his trip as nail-biting but he was pre-warned of the perils of taking the bus ride.

Jim says the problems of the drive south are not a matter of bad drivers, indeed he described his driver as very experienced, pleasant and helpful. But the driver was on a race with the clock to meet deadlines of getting to the border in time and then getting customers to the agents at Penang in time to apply for the visa application in the morning. Miss the deadline and it’s adds extra days, expense and inconvenience to the whole process.

He told us that on his trip there was one eastern European passenger who had overstay problems when he reached the border. He didn’t have enough money to pay the fine so the rest of the bus had to either pitch in and help or be delayed for long enough to miss their Embassy deadline that morning. They handed the hat around and paid the man’s fine to the border officials. 

“Just one person on the bus can cause delays for everyone else if everything isn’t in order at the border.”

The other way is to fly there with Firefly or Air-Asia. The competition from Air Asia this year has really reduced prices and made it a much more attractive option – a mere hour in the air. Depending on where you stay and how precious your time is, flying to Penang is worth considering and may end up cheaper.

The Thai Consulate General in Penang reported earlier this year that they will only be able to accept the first 100 applications each day. This is not what actually happens as the two registered ‘agents’ in Penang (registered to deal directly with the Embassy) have ‘slots’ for their customers.

We spoke to a Penang ‘agent’ on condition of anonymity.

“The Thai Consulate General actually process up to 200-300 applications on some days but mostly through us agents. They restrict the ‘walk-ins’ to 100 applications a day. Miss the cut and you have to wait until the next day.”

The number of visa applications processed by the Consulate varies wildly from day to day, depending on the time of year and if there was a public holiday the day before. One Penang visa agent described the Embassy as ‘flexible’. 

“We’ve earned our position of favor with the Embassy over the years by ‘building relationships’ and making sure the applications we send have already been checked to meet all the requirements.”

The Thai Consulate General loves the agents and, mostly, prefers to work with them. This is because the agents act as a ‘go-between’ for the Embassy, weeding out the bad applications or fixing them (for a cost) before they cross their desk.

Trying to organise and apply for your visa as a DIY is absolutely possible but you need to be prepared to play the ‘game’ – be there long before the gates open, ensure you absolutely have the correct documentation and be happy to stand in the sun or rain, because there’s no shade or shelter waiting in the long queue.

“Take more money than you think you’ll need. I had two photos but they weren’t identical photos and the agent said the Consulate would refused to accept them. But just outside the gate of the consulate I noticed a vendor who took photos and had a photocopy service set up,” said Jim.

Services to assist you through the visa process are enthusiastically advertised. And, to make it quite clear, often their advice is in their best interests, not yours.

Jim discovered that his ‘case’ had been sold through four other agents, each taking a commission along the way. Like a slave in a human trafficking ring, cases get sold down the line, each attracting another commission. Who pays for all this? The poor applicant who just wants to stay in Thailand.

In the end the costs kept spiraling – additional documents that needed to be copied, new photos, ‘problems’ that can be ‘fast-tracked’ with an additional payment. Otherwise the threat always hangs over the head of the applicants that they will have to wait another day if they don’t keep putting the coins into the visa machine.

None of this is probably a surprise to the long-suffering foreigners who have to run the gauntlet of visa runs frequently – it never gets any easier. There’s no doubt that money will always grease the wheels but it’s best to be aware of where that money is going and that you’re supporting an industry of fifth or sixth-tier ‘agents’ and ‘lawyers’, some more trustworthy than others.

Jim said he would fly to Penang next time, forsaking the long bus ride and saving time. He also recommended organising your own accommodation ff possible as the rates for the hotels in the ‘visa packages’ was at least double what you could book online. He also said that the accommodations were mostly at the lower-end of the quality spectrum.

“If you have a Thai lawyer or agent helping you, take a Thai friend with you who speaks your language to help avoid misunderstandings. Misunderstanding seems to be a word used as a frequent excuse. Believe me, ‘misunderstanding’ means YOU pay more.”

Whilst none of this broad visa-monster has been set up by Immigration officials, the whole process has unwittingly forced it to develop. The entire system – the complexities, inconsistencies and sheer difficulty of doing it yourself – serves to facilitate the growth of agents and the downstream commission system – photocopiers, passport photo makers, taxis, hotels, Visa Run buses, agents in Phuket and Penang, so-called VISA lawyers and assorted hanger-onners.

“The entire performance just served to remind me that I am simply a guest of the Kingdom of Thailand and that it’s increasingly expensive and complicated to enjoy the pleasure of staying here.”


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Local Thai journalist speaking fluent Thai and English. Tanutam studied in Khon Kaen before attending Bangkok’s Chulalongkhorn University.

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Bangkok

Soi Dog Foundation responds to rabies and dog registration stories

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Soi Dog Foundation responds to rabies and dog registration stories | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Bangkok Thailand Soi Dog

Phuket’s Soi Dog Foundation has sent The Thaiger a response to an article published on October 16. The story was sourced from our Bangkok partners ‘The Nation’ and, according to Soi Dog, contains some glaring inaccuracies. You can read the original article HERE.

We reprint the response from the Soi Dog Foundation below…

“The Department of Livestock Development (DLD) carries out a survey, twice a year, in an attempt to count the number of dogs and cats in the country, both owned and stray. In 2016, it counted 7.3 million dogs and 3 million cats in Thailand, excluding Bangkok. This year the number of dogs was recorded by the DLD as 7,770,969, excluding Bangkok.

We at the Soi Dog Foundation carried out a census of free roaming dogs in Greater Bangkok two years ago and came up with a figure of 640,000, so a realistic number for dogs nationwide is somewhere around 8.4 million, not – as your story states – 820,000.

Another figure given in your story is that 40 per cent of stray dogs in Thailand could carry the rabies virus. If this were true, there would be hundreds of human deaths a year, if not thousands, and the carcasses of dead dogs would be scattered all over the place.

A story published by The Nation on September 28 (“Expert says rabies still not under control and official statistics may be misleading”) gave a DLD figure of 15.3 per cent for the first nine months of this year.

But even that is highly suspect. It was based on a very small sample – just 8,472 dogs. And those were 8,472 dogs that had been caught by the DLD, and their brains examined post mortem for the virus because they were believed to be rabid.

Plainly, to base a percentage infection rate on a sample made up entirely of dogs that are already suspected to have rabies is utterly misleading. It would be like saying, “We checked a bunch of people thought to have diabetes and found that 15 per cent of them did indeed have diabetes.”

The real figure must be much lower. We believe it is between 1 and 4 per cent.

At the root of all the problems being discussed is, in fact, Thailand’s ineffective garbage disposal problem system, which allows a high number of dogs to survive and even get fat by scavenging from trash bins.

Trying to remove 8 million-plus dogs to “shelters” is futile, and carrying out culls (which would probably be illegal under the Cruelty Prevention and Welfare of Animals Act of 2014) would be equally ineffective. Here’s why:

  • The cost of building shelters to hold 8.4 million dogs would be astronomical and the annual budgets for running them would equally expensive. It would be a huge drain on the national treasury.

  • Dumping dogs in government pounds would probably lead to large scale suffering and death, as was seen earlier this year when, as a result of the rabies panic, 3,000 dogs were crammed into the government animal quarantine facility in Nakhon Phanom. In just weeks, around 2,300 died from disease, starvation and wounds from fighting.

  • Dogs that were not caught in this proposed nationwide roundup, or which avoided being killed in a nationwide cull, would swiftly move into the territories of the dogs that had been removed, breeding rapidly and replacing them.

  • A female dog can have up to three litters of pups a year, each litter averaging seven pups. This means that one female and her offspring – and their offspring and so on – can become 67,000 dogs in six years. This is why an extended campaign of “catch, neuter, vaccinate and release” is so effective.

  • Even if all the dogs could be removed, the garbage problem remains, Other species would take over, notably cats, who breed even more rapidly than dogs, and monkeys. If they, too, were impounded – and cats and monkeys are far harder to catch than dogs – then the country would see an explosion in rat and mice populations. Outbreaks of bubonic plague transmitted by rats and their fleas would be far more frightening than rabies.

As we have seen in Phuket, large scale sterilisation, coupled with vaccination, works, not only in reducing numbers but also in eliminating rabies. It does require large scale investment, though far less than sheltering would, and spread over several years.

As to the issue of compulsory licensing of pets, whether there is a fee or not, we believe this is not a viable solution. It has been tried by other countries and then abandoned because the majority of dog owners – numbering in millions – simply decided not to comply.

Does Thailand have the resources to find, arrest and bring to court millions of dog owners, in order to extract small fines from them, always assuming that the authorities can prove in the first place that the dogs actually have “owners”?

We doubt very much that the government will find this is an effective measure for controlling Thailand’s population of strays, reducing abandonments or reducing the spread of disease. Indeed, it is likely to have the opposite effect.

SDF Founder John Dalley, Soi Dog Foundation, Phuket

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Phuket

Fire destroys plastic water pipes in Rassada

Tanutam Thawan

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Fire destroys plastic water pipes in Rassada | The Thaiger

PHOTOS & VIDEO: Kritsada Mueanhawong & Newshawk Phuket

Last evening (Monday) a fire swept through a storage area for huge pipes in Rassada which were to be used for the Phuket City Municipality flood problem-solving project.  No injuries was reported as the blaze engulfed the storage area.

At about 6.30pm, at the rear of the Phuket Provincial Administrative Organisation (OrBorJor) hospital, a fire started where piping for the Phuket City Municipality flood relief project were being stored.

Firefighters with five fire engines arrived at the scene to discover the blaze. It took more than an hour to bring the fire under control.  In the meantime social media was abuzz with the plumes of black smoke which could be seen from kilometers away. About 30 plastic water drain pipes were damaged with an estimated replacement value about 6 million Baht.

52 year old Rapeepong Songtawee, a staff member of the Siampan Wattana Company says “the company is renting the area for about one year to store this infrastructure equipment which was to be used in the construction on Surin Road, Phang Nga Road and Soi Weerapong Hongyok. No one was taking care of this place.”

Kongka Sangmuang, the head of worker camp nearby, says he noticed the fire start. So he called other workers to help put out the fire.

Mr Kongka told police that he also saw 35 year old Surapit Tipprasong who always drinks in this area, was drinking alcohol before the incident happened. When the fire started he ran out from the storage area. Mr Surapit was taken to the Phuket City Police Station to assist police with their enquiries.

Mr Surapit insisted he didn’t know anything about the fire. Police have charged him with being drunk and disorderly in public.

At no stage was the OrBorJor hospital under any threat from the fire.

Forensic Police are continuing their investigation to find the cause of the big fire.

PHUKETA big blaze at the rear of the Or Bor Jor hospital in Rassada. The fire is reported to have started in big rubber pipe storage area. More information to follow. Thanks to Newshawk Phuket for the video.

Posted by The Thaiger on Monday, October 22, 2018

Fire destroys plastic water pipes in Rassada | News by The Thaiger Fire destroys plastic water pipes in Rassada | News by The Thaiger Fire destroys plastic water pipes in Rassada | News by The Thaiger Fire destroys plastic water pipes in Rassada | News by The Thaiger   Fire destroys plastic water pipes in Rassada | News by The Thaiger Fire destroys plastic water pipes in Rassada | News by The Thaiger Fire destroys plastic water pipes in Rassada | News by The Thaiger

 

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Phuket

Phuket Administrative Court officially opens

Tanutam Thawan

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Phuket Administrative Court officially opens | The Thaiger

The Phuket Administrative Court has been officially opened which provide service for the Krabi, Phang Nga, Ranong and Phuket provinces. The Administrative Courts adjudicate on cases relating to people and private business versus state-run departments, enterprises and political entities.

The official launch ceremony was held this morning at the new Phuket Administrative Court in Mai Khao and led by Piya Patangta, President of the Supreme Administrative Court, the Phuket Governor Pakkapong Tawipat and Somyot Wattanapirom, director-general of Nakhon Si Thammarat Administrative Court who is currently temporarily acting as the director-general of the Phuket Administrative Court.

Director-general Somyot says, “the new Phuket Administrative Court covers an area of 26 rai of land in Mai Khao which will operate for the Krabi, Phang Nga, Ranong and Phuket provinces.”

“In the past five years there have been 867 cases of which 367 cases were related to Krabi, 147 cases for Phang Nga, 62 cases for Ranong and 291 cases for Phuket. These cases have been sent to Nakhon Si Thammarat Administrative Court in the past.”

“Now a full administrative court has been set up here in Phuket. So that cases process will be faster than before.”

The Phuket Administrative Court is located in Mai Khao near the top of the island for easier access for Ranong, Krabi and Phang Nga people.

Phuket Administrative Court officially opens | News by The Thaiger Phuket Administrative Court officially opens | News by The Thaiger

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Phuket Weather
October 23, 2018, 3:07 pm
30.0
°C
Temperature
66
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Humidity
18
km/h
Wind from West
0.0
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Rainfall
40
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Cloud Cover
34
Heat Index

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