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Pattaya & Thailand News Update
24/ July/ 2014 Still Time to Clear Your Overstay Without Blacklisting - New Rules Not Yet in Effect Following the recent panic among legions of expats who have overstayed their visa for Thailand and now stay illegally in the country, ThaiVisa.com has finally some good news and reports that there is still some time to clear your overstay without getting blacklisted. But - you better act soon!
The Immigration Bureau has now updated its website to further clarify the new rules for overstaying and has added the vital information that the new regulation is still awaiting approval from the Ministry of Interior. In other words, the new rules that will see foreigners who overstay their visa for more than 90 days blacklisted for 1-10 years, are not yet in effect and there is no blacklisting yet. Then again, it's most likely just a question of time until the doors get finally shut. ThaiVisa.com suggests: "If you currently are on overstay, you are advised to clear it as soon as possible. Good advice would be to clear the overstay at the Airport and fly out to a neighbouring country and obtain a relevant visa at a Royal Thai Consulate or Embassy."
24/ July/ 2014 Dutch-Thai Couple Nabbed in Pattaya for Trafficking Marijuana A Dutch man and his Thai wife were arrested Wednesday in a luxury house near the Phoenix golf course on the southern outskirts of Pattaya for "conspiring to sell marijuana via a network in the Netherlands that reportedly earned 600-800 million Baht per year."
Johannes Petrus Maria Van Laarhoven, 53, his wife Mingkwan Van Laarhoven, 35, and the man's elder brother reportedly "imported and distributed marijuana beyond the Dutch legal amount for years and laundered drug money by purchasing assets and opening businesses in other countries including Thailand." According to The Nation, the three-member gang reportedly "gathered drugs in Asia to be smuggled into the Netherlands, where they had coffee shops as a cover-up business." Pattaya One adds: "Mr. Laarhoven is wanted by Dutch Authorities in relation to a charge of cultivating and selling Marijuana without a permit back in the Netherlands dating back to 2008." In the same year, he reportedly moved to Thailand, where he allegedly set up a company laundering 500-600 Million Baht per year. The Nation reports that the couple's assets worth an estimated 150 million Baht, including 20 million Baht in bank accounts, eight properties worth 100 million Baht, and three luxury cars worth 30 million Baht, were frozen by authorities. According to Thai law, the Dutch-Thai couple will be tried and punished in Thailand before being extradited to the Netherlands.
22/ July/ 2014 New Overstay Rules Now Official - Overstayers of More Than 90 Days Get Blacklisted ThaiVisa.com reports that the Immigration Bureau has today posted a new announcement regarding its updated rules for "visa overstayers" on its website. Until now, tourists who "overstayed" their visa were usually simply fined 500 Baht/day up to a maximum fine of 20,000 Baht; only when an "overstayer" was caught within the kingdom, he/she faced arrest and deportation. Overstayers were not blacklisted.
According to the new rules, however, foreigners who overstay their visa for more than 90 days will get blacklisted, i.e. prohibited from returning to Thailand for 1-10 years. As we interpret the new rules: If an overstayer gets apprehended in Thailand without a valid permission of stay, no matter how lengthy the overstay is, he risks getting blacklisted for 5-10 years. If an overstayer makes it to the airport or any other border checkpoint and pays the appropriate overstay fine, he will get blacklisted for 1-10 years only if he has overstayed his visa for more than 90 days; less than 90 days is okay it seems. The overstay fine of 500 Baht per day still applies.
It should be added that, according to a number of comments posted on ThaiVisa.com, the new rules will reportedly not be in effect until September. But obviously, if you should be on an overstay, the sooner you leave the country now - preferably via an airport checkpoint - the better are your chances!
The announcement on the immigration website reads as follows:
"[If the overstayer surrenders himself at a border checkpoint]
Overstay more than 90 days forbidden 1 year
Overstay more than 1 year forbidden 3 years
Overstay more than 3 years forbidden 5 years
Overstay more than 5 years forbidden 10 years
[If the overstayer gets apprehended while staying in Thailand]
Overstay less than 1 year forbidden 5 years
Overstay more than 1 years forbidden 10 years"
21/ July/ 2014 Pattaya Beach to be "Reorganized" After troops in full combat uniform raided the picturesque beaches of Phuket earlier this month and beach chairs, umbrellas, food stalls and other illegal structures and vendors have largely disappeared from the kingdom's largest island in the Andaman Sea, Pattaya's beaches now obviously face a similar "crackdown" that will hopefully also target the city's notorious jet-ski mafia. NNT reports today: "Authorities have now set their eyes on reorganizing popular areas of Pattaya Beach ... The campaign would address the ongoing issues of unfair usage of public space, and the local influential mafia groups. Such a project has recently been successfully implemented on Patong Beach and 14 other beaches in Phuket province." Authorities will now "attempt to find the most suitable way to reorganize the area" and "once tangible plans are settled ... proceed to put them in place."
20/ July/ 2014 Visa Exemption Extension Period to be Extended from 7 to 30 Days Amid all those terrible visa-related news coming in on an almost daily basis, e.g. regarding the imminent crackdown on out/in visa runs, back-to-back tourist visas and "visa overstayers", here are finally some good news for "genuine" foreign tourists who wish to stay in Thailand for not longer than 60 days. If you're eligible for a visa-exempted stay of 30 days in the country, you will soon no longer need a 60-day tourist visa if you wish to stay in Thailand for more than a month but not exceeding 60 days. All you need to do is visit your local immigration bureau after your first 30 days have expired and apply for a 30-day extension (currently only 7-day extensions are available). In a nutshell: Tourists who are eligible for a visa-exempt entry will soon be able to stay in Thailand without a visa for a total of 60 days. The new visa exemption extension rules will reportedly be in force from the end of next month. ThaiVisa.com reports: "The Immigration Bureau has announced that of August 29. 2014 you will be able to extend your visa exemption period whilst you're in Thailand by 30 days, instead of the current 7 days, giving a total visa-exemption stay of 60 days. The fee for extension of stay is 1,900 Baht (unchanged).
Currently, a visa exemption entry can be extended by 7 days at your nearest Immigration office. From August 29th, it can be extended by 30 days. In effect, you can be in the country without a visa for 60 days."
If you wish to extend your visa-exempt stay in the kingdom for another 30 days or extend a tourist visa, you should bring the following documents to your local immigration office:
- Your onward flight ticket or eTicket out of Thailand within the 30 days
- Minimum 10,000 Baht, or rather 20,000 Baht
- Hotel booking confirmation - and if you have it, your itinerary.
16/ July/ 2014 Visa Crackdown Now Also Targets Back-to-Back Tourist Visa Holders Here are potentially bad news for long-stay tourists. Unfortunately it looks like the ongoing crackdown on "out/in" visa runners (targeting tourists "abusing" the visa exemption scheme, under which foreigners from most Western countries can visit Thailand for up to 30 days without a visa) is now being expanded to also include foreign visitors holding valid tourist visas. AsianCorrespondent.com reports today: "Even those on valid tourist visas may be denied entry if immigration officials suspect feel they are spending too long in the country or working illegally." Just precisely how long is deemed "too long"; and how long do you have to stay outside the country to be considered a "genuine" tourist again?
While many questions remain unanswered for now, it's obvious that the new military government means business this time: Out/in visa runs are now officially dead, and the use of back-to-back tourist visas will no longer be permitted; foreigners who use back-to-back tourist visas to continually extend their stay in Thailand and, in some cases, work illegally, now have to get an appropriate long-stay visa or - if they don't qualify for one - remain outside the country for an unspecified amount of time. Below are some excerpts from concerned recent articles which all demonstrate the seriousness of this latest "crackdown". And whatever the ultimate consequences for under-50 long-stay tourists and quasi-expats, who neither plan to work in Thailand nor get married to a Thai national, will be - this latest "crackdown" will surely put many people off coming to Thailand, including "genuine" tourists.
- The Phuket News quotes the superintendent of Phuket immigration as saying: "Every immigration post on land borders and at airports now has the same rules. If they are genuine tourists that's fine. But if we believe they are not tourists, they will not be readmitted into Thailand. We can see [from their passport stamps] if a foreigner has stayed in Thailand too long [on tourist visas]. We will not let them in."
- The Phuket Gazette reports that "tourists unable to prove the legitimacy of their trip to Thailand are being turned away despite having tourist visas issued by Thailandís Ministry of Foreign Affairs, confirmed Lt Col Banphot Kittivira, deputy superintendent of the Immigration checkpoint at Sadao at the Malaysian border, where "about 100 foreigners denied entry into the Kingdom per month". The superintendent is quoted as saying: "If tourists canít provide us with details about their trip to Thailand, we will refuse them entry. We are being very strict about this because some foreigners are using a tourist visa to enter the country and work - this is the wrong type of visa for this. Foreigners who are using many tourist visas to enter Thailand multiple times for nearly a year or more are very suspicious. I think between 60 and 90 days is enough for most people to travel in Thailand." The superintendent also explained that "legitimate tourists need to clarify what activities they plan on participating in while in Thailand. Additionally, proof of hotel reservations will help them gain entry."
- AsianCorrespondent.com quotes the ThaiVisa website as reporting that "some foreigners with proper [tourist] visas were refused entry at points along the Thai-Malaysian border. Their reporter said 20 foreigners holding 60-day tourist visas were turned away ... and that 'all of the foreigners who were denied entry had a previous history of multiple visa exempt entries or back to back tourist visas.' They were told to take a bus to Kuala Lumpur and fly back into Thailand."
- Ajarn.com anticipates that "from [August 12th], apparently no one will be allowed to use back-to-back 60-day tourist visas to enter Thailand. You can use one 60-day tourist visa to enter the country [one time], but forget about using a second one. Apparently you'll be refused entry at the airport as well as any land border." Casey Hynes at AsianCorrespondent.com reasons: "The fact that even those holding a tourist visa are being denied in some cases suggests the seriousness of this crackdown."
16/ July/ 2014 Ladyboys Caught Red-Handed Robbing Aussie Tourist on Pattaya Beach Pattaya police late Monday night caught two ladyboys red-handed as they stole an 18 karat gold necklace worth an estimated 75,000 Baht from an Australian tourist on Pattaya Beach.
The two ladyboys, aged 33 and 36, were arrested in front of Soi 12 on Pattaya Beach Road after police had observed the "suspiciously acting" suspects for a while. Pattaya One reports "they were seen embracing, distracting and then stealing" from the 47-year-old tourist as he was taking a walk down Pattaya beach road promenade. The report adds that the two ladyboys admitted to "conducting many necklace snatches in the past and would target foreigners who appeared to be drunk."
15/ July/ 2014 "No More Visa Runs": Visa Runners Not Allowed to Re-Enter Thailand After August 12 The Nation reports: "Foreigners who do regular visa runs in order to extend their stay in Thailand have less than a month before a crackdown by the authorities to enforce immigration laws more strictly. From August 13, people [who have not obtained a proper visa prior to their visit to Thailand] will not be able to re-enter the country, regardless of their choice of transport [including visa runs by air!]. The Immigration Bureau has already instructed officials to deny entry to foreigners doing visa runs as a measure to stop the exploitation of tourist visas [?!] and visa exemptions to live or work here." So visa runs by air, e.g., to Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, not just border runs to a land border checkpoint, will also be affected.
The Immigration Bureau website is quoted as saying: "Leniency will be granted until August 12, but only for passengers arriving by air. Foreigners who come to Thailand [and wish to stay longer than 30 days] must seek a proper visa in line with the purpose of their intended stay here." The Nation adds that "those on a visa run who are allowed back in will find an "O-I" (Out-In) mark next to their latest stamp marking entry. From August 13, nobody with an O-I sign on their passport will be allowed to re-enter Thailand if they cannot produce a proper visa."
July/ 2014 Thailand After The Coup - Latest Updates In brief (for updates please scroll down) >>> - It's almost two months now since army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, on May 22, seized power from the elected government in the countryís 12th successful coup since 1932. The constitution was temporarily suspended. Coup leader Prayuth, head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), declared himself interim prime minister the following day. Following the dissolution of the Senate two days later, all parliamentary authority now rests with the army chief and his junta. On May 25, the coup leaders reportedly royal endorsement; Prayuth was officially appointed as head of the NCPO by royal command. On May 27, the NCPO appointed a six-member advisory committee.
- The coup leaders have told the foreign media they had launched the coup because political divisions had put the country at risk of "civil war". The NCPO now says it seeks to "return happiness" to the people and establish reconciliation and national unity; aims the junta seeks to achieve by stamping out "colour-coded" (red/yellow) socio-political divisions and by depoliticizing Thai society. The coup has drawn widespread criticism from the international community, which has urged a quick return to electoral democracy.
- Coup leader and NCPO chief Prayuth Chan-ocha first went live on national TV on the evening of May 30 to outline his reform plans for the country and give a rough time frame for Thailand's promised return to democracy. According to the roadmap, Thailand will initially remain under military rule for 2-3 months, with the focus on "national reconciliation". An "appointed" government, likely to be "overseen" by the junta, will then administer the country for "about one year". It can be expected that Thailand will not see a fresh election for an estimated 1½ years of vaguely defined political "reforms". While fresh polls could be held possibly in October 2015, it also remains to be seen whether the new parliament will be fully elected or partly appointed. After reforms have been enacted and a new permanent charter is in place (likely without a referendum) the coup leaders hope that their attempts at reconciling and reforming the politically divided nation would ultimately lead to a government "all people can accept".
- A nationwide night-time curfew imposed following the military intervention on May 22 was lifted on June 13. Martial law remains in force and the media have been ordered to self-censor themselves. On June 25, the NCPO announced they had set up five panels to monitor all kinds of media, including radio broadcasts, television, print, online and social media, and foreign media, for content that is considered to be "inciting hatred towards the monarchy" or providing "false information". As the junta seeks to muzzle all kind of dissent, any media found to be spreading "inappropriate content" will face criminal charges. On July 18, the NCPO issued another announcement reiterating its restrictions on freedom of speech, in which it threatened to shut down and take legal actions against any media, including social media (users), that criticize the NCPO and disseminate "content prohibited by the junta".
- Protests against the coup and political gatherings of five people or more are strictly illegal under martial law. Criticism of the NCPO and the coup are also deemed illegal. Foreign tourists are strongly advised to stay away from anti-coup protests. Foreigners have also been advised against criticizing the junta and the coup, including on social media, and making dissident political statements. Aside from the curfew, the coup has had no relevant impact on tourism. Airports, land border checkpoints etc. have continued to operate as usual and the country remains safe for tourists.
- Since May 22, the ruling military junta has launched a wide crackdown on dissent aimed principally at elements aligned with controversial ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra. More than 500 former government politicians, protest leaders and dissident voices, mostly with links to the "red shirt" movement, have been summoned to report to the NCPO and detained since May 22. Opponents of the coup are reportedly to undergo an "attitude re-adjustment" process while in detention. Most of the detainees have been released after 3-7 days but have been barred from political activism and expressing dissident political opinions.
- In a wider crackdown on dissidents and political opponents, at least 155 political figures and activists have been banned from leaving the country or face arrests. Dozens of prominent academics and activists have been summoned to report to the junta; those who defy the order also face fines or arrest. As the coup leaders seek to prevent a possible fightback against the coup, an unknown number of regional "red shirt" leaders and activists in Northern and Northeast Thailand have been detained; several "red shirt" militants have also been arrested. On June 1, 38 political figures, many of them left-leaning activists and critics of the lese majeste law, were summoned to report to the junta. Another 21 activists and academics, many of them lese majeste suspects living in exile, were summoned by the junta on June 4. A number of academics and activists have decided to stay in hiding rather than report to the junta. The NCPO has also announced that violators of the controversial lese majeste law and junta orders, as well as violators of internal security laws, will face court-martial proceedings. Arrest warrants have been issued for several lese majeste suspects living in self-imposed exile and their passports have been revoked. The NCPO has also revoked the passport of a noted Japan-based academic who has been highly critical of the coup from abroad and failed to heed a summons issued by the junta. Dozens of state officials, provincial governors etc., aligned with the deposed government have been transferred to inactive posts since the coup. The purge is expected to continue in the coming weeks and months.
- The Thai and foreign media have been strictly advised to self-censor themselves and prohibited from disseminating "content prohibited by the junta". 14 partisan TV networks and almost 3,000 unlicensed community radio stations were shut down following the coup. The ban on all other TV stations initially imposed by the NCPO, including foreign news channels, has been lifted since. A number of "partisan" TV channels have also been allowed to resume broadcasting on the condition that they stay "in line". Likewise, social media users, blogs and websites have been warned not to post any content and comments that could "incite unrest". A temporary Facebook oustage on May 28 prompted a swift outcry among Thai Internet users but was blamed on a "technical glitch". An "online content monitoring committee" has reportedly been set up to monitor and block "inappropriate content" on the web. The junta has openly acknowledged they were seeking tighter censorship of the Internet and especially social media.
- Following a week of small anti-coup protests mainly in Bangkok immediately after the coup, no larger coordinated rallies have been reported since. After the junta has explicitly warned people against joining anti-coup protests or face arrest and detention, political gatherings are banned and criticism of the junta is virtually illegal, all dissent has been effectively silenced for now and/or forced to "go underground". In June, protests were mostly restricted to symbolic forms of protest and sporadic "flash mobs" in downtown areas of Bangkok. Dozens of people were arrested and temporarily detained. No relevant protest activities were reported in July. Latest updates >>> July 23 - A day after the interim charter proposed by the junta was royally endorsed, a legal adviser of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) said in a televised press conference that a new, permanent constitution was expected to be completed and promulgated in one year from now. The Bangkok Post quotes him as describing the interim charter as the "beginning of the second phase of the roadmap to reform ... it would take about one year before drafting of the country's 20th constitution was completed, ending the second stage of the roadmap. The third stage of the roadmap to reforms would begin with a general election after organic laws, to be issued as required by the new constitution, had been completed and put into effect." A fresh election is scheduled to be held not before October 2015, provided the situation is sufficiently "stable" and the junta-appointed government has accomplished its task of achieving "reconciliation". July 22 - As was to be expected, Thailand's new interim constitution that was officially endorsed by His Majesty the King Tuesday afternoon, "puts the chief of National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) in charge of national security, allowing him to suppress any action both inside and outside the Kingdom that could be considered a threat to national peace, security, economy or the monarchy ... all orders from the junta chief, with the endorsement of the NCPO, on those matters are final." The Nation reports: "The 2014 provisional Constitution, comprised of 48 Articles, stipulates that the NCPO will continue in its current status ... Article 48 of the provisional charter also gives the NCPO amnesty for its coup." More details on how the NCPO will retain its position of (absolute) power in Thailand's mid-term political future: "The charter stipulates that the National Legislative Assembly (NLA)'s 220 members would be selected by the NCPO and appointed by His Majesty. The [interim] government would [be] comprised of a prime minister and a 35-member Cabinet [which] will be nominated by the NLA and then appointed by His Majesty. The National Reform Council's 250 members will be nominated by the NCPO and then appointed by His Majesty ... The Constitution drafting committee will be comprised of 36 members appointed by the chairman of the National Reform Council, while the drafting committee's chairman will be named by the NCPO. The rest of the committee will comprise of 20 members nominated by the National Reform Council; five by the NLA; five by the Cabinet and five by the NCPO."