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Pattaya & Thailand News Update

New Stricter Visa Regulations  -  Latest Updates
Thailand After The Military Coup  -  Latest Updates

20/ Nov/ 2014
Indian Tourist Arrested Following Jet Ski Crash on Pattaya Beach
A 30-year-old Indian tourist in Pattaya was arrested Wednesday and may possibly face charges after he lost control of a rented jet ski which "left the water at high speed and hit two other foreign tourists sitting on deckchairs on the beach." While an American national sustained only minor injuries, an unidentified Middle-Eastern man "suffered suspected neck and spinal injuries and was rushed to hospital."
Pattaya One reports that the Indian tourist had rented the jet ski from an operator on Pattaya beach for 30 minutes. According to witnesses, he rode the jet ski into a swimming zone opposite Soi 13/4, which jet skis are not allowed to use, and "appeared to have lost control of the jet ski which then went onto the sand and hit the two beachgoers." The incident is currently still being investigated.

19/ Nov/ 2014
Eight Turkish Tourists Rescued From Sinking Speed Boat in Pattaya Bay
Eight Turkish tourists had to be rescued, with one Turkish national sustaining minor injuries, when a speed boat the group had rented to take them to Koh Larn island was "damaged during rough seas and strong winds" and sunk on its way back to Pattaya beach Tuesday afternoon. Fortunately, all passengers were wearing life jackets when a "crack appeared in the hull" and, as Pattaya One reports, "help was only minutes away in the form of a pleasure boat [which] rescued the Turkish tourists and boat driver. One of the tourists was slightly injured and was taken to hospital, but was released a few hours later."
Interestingly, port officials determined that the "hull of the boat had just been repaired which may be connected to the incident ..."

19/ Nov/ 2014
Foreigners Accuse Phoenix Golf Club in Pattaya of Fraud
According to reports by Pattaya Daily News and Khaosod English, a group of more than 30 foreigners on Monday pressed charges against the Phoenix golf club in Pattaya, accusing the management of fraud. The foreigners, many of whom are pensioners living in the Pattaya area, told police they had previously paid 200,000 Baht for lifetime club membership. Last year then, the golf club slightly changed its name - from Phoenix Golf and Country Club Pattaya to P.O.C. Phoenix Golf and Country Club Pattaya. The "new" club, which retained all of the former executives as board members, then invalidated all their memberships and demanded a renewed payment of 200,000 Baht to renew their lifetime club memberships ...

19/ Nov/ 2014
Tourist Arrivals Up 6.1% in October, But ...
Foreign tourist arrivals rose in October for the first time in 2014, mainly due to a huge increase in arrivals from China (+67%) and Asean member countries. Arrivals in October totaled 2.18 million, an increase of 6.1% from October last year. But for the first 10 months of the year, tourist arrivals have totaled 19.74 million only, still a decline of 8.7% year-on-year.
The Bangkok Post: "Arrivals from [South] East Asia, which accounts for 58.4% of all visitors, were up 15.1% from the same month last year. However, the figure for the first 10 months is still down 12.9% from a year earlier ... Arrivals from China, the country's biggest tourist market with a 23% share of all visitors, jumped 67% in the month, to 501,043 from 299,982 a year earlier. The reason for the large increase was not clear, and Chinese arrivals are still down 11.1% for the January-October period."
"Arrivals from Japan (down 10.1% in October), South Korea (-15%) and Taiwan (-8.5%) remained weak ... Arrivals from Europe last month fell 10.8% from a year ago, but are up 1% for the year to Oct 31, helped by gains from Eastern Europe, a relatively new market. However, visitor numbers from Russia, a key market, plunged 23.2% in October and have shown zero growth for the first 10 months. Arrivals from the Americas were down 6.6% in October and are down 4.6% for the year. Visitor numbers from Australia fell 7.8% last month and are down 4.5% for the year."

17/ Nov/ 2014
American 'Bumfights' Producers Stole Body Parts From Medical Museum
New details have emerged in the case of the "baby body parts" found in a parcel destined for the United States, namely that the two Americans wanted in the case have been identified as co-creators of the early 2000s "Bumfights" video series. The controversial "Bumfights" series featured homeless men in the US paid a few dollars to beat each other on camera for videos which were sold over the internet.
- Coconuts Bangkok report: "Two American videographers who became national pariahs a decade ago for selling videos of homeless people beating each other were caught shipping parts of a dead baby and human skin they bought at a Bangkok night market."
"Police said this afternoon they’ve contacted the FBI to seek information about Ryan Edward McPherson, aka Ryen McPherson, who was detained Saturday night along with Daniel Tanner ... McPherson, 31, told police an implausible story that he got in a tuk-tuk at Siam Center for a ride, and somehow ended up at the night market across the river in Thonburi (he couldn’t remember exactly where) where he happened upon the body parts and decided to send them to some friends back in the United States as a prank."
"Police said they released McPherson and 33-year-old Tanner because they technically had not broken any Thai laws. The two left Thailand for Cambodia Sunday at the border in Sa Kaeo province."
- But then it also emerged that the body parts had been stolen from Bangkok's Siriraj Medical Museum. Coconuts Bangkok: "Two American men entered Thailand on Thursday to steal human body parts from the Siriraj Medical Museum, according to the hospital. The preserved baby's foot, human heart and sheets of skin obtained by Ryan McPherson and Daniel Tanner came from the hospital's exhibition ... Visitor records [and CCTV footage] indicate McPherson entered Thailand on Thursday and visited the museum on Friday prior to dropping the three parcels off at DHL at BTS National Stadium."
So now, after Thai authorities let the two Americans escape to Cambodia, they have been charged with theft, possession of stolen items and false declaration on shipping documents, and arrest warrants have been issued ...

17/ Nov/ 2014
Pakistani Tourist Drugged, Robbed by Two Pattaya Beach Prostitutes
A 40-year-old Pakistani tourist and alleged first-time visitor to Pattaya was reportedly drugged and robbed by two Thai prostitutes he had picked up from Pattaya Beach Road Saturday night.
Khaosod English: "The tourist told police that one of the women dropped something in his drink while they were walking back to his hotel, but that he didn’t think anything of it at the time. He then reportedly began to feel dizzy and fatigued, and cannot remember what happened after he and the two women decided to take a minibus back to his resort. The man told police he woke up [Sunday] morning to find his room ransacked with 5,000 baht, 700 US dollars, 200 Euros, and his mobile phone missing. He estimated the total loss to be at least 50,000 baht."
Police are now studying CCTV footage and questioning witnesses to identity the two women.
While unfortunately this is just the umpteenth variation of the same old story (drunk or unaware tourist, often from the Middle East or India and in Pattaya for the first time, picks up a prostitute/ladyboy from Pattaya beach, gets drugged, robbed etc.), here's a bizarre punchline: "Although prostitution is outlawed in Thailand, [police] did not mention any possible legal action against the Pakistani for allegedly agreeing to buy sexual services from the two suspects."

17/ Nov/ 2014
German Man Brutally Attacked By 'Koh Tao Copycats'
A 25-year-old German expat was admitted to the ICU Saturday morning after he was brutally attacked by three drunk teenagers in Udon Thani. The three youths reportedly wanted to "imitate" the brutal double murder of two British tourists on Koh Tao island in September and attacked the young German with a garden hoe. The victim reportedly works as a language tutor for Udon Thani residents who plan to move to Germany and only has a "50-50" percent chance of survival.
Khaosod reports that the German man was "sitting with two Thai friends near a park in Udon Thani's Muang District in the early morning of 15 November when three Thai teenagers suddenly attacked him with a garden hoe. The man is now being treated for severe injuries in the ICU at Udon Thani Hospital ... he suffered wounds on his face and skull that required immediate operation. According to a doctor at the hospital, there's only '50-50' percent chance that he will survive ... Police have arrested three suspects, two 18-year-olds and one 17-year-old, in connection with the crime."
The two 18-year-olds had reportedly been "drinking at [the 17-year-old's] house on 14 November. After they became drunk, the teenagers reportedly drove around town on a motorcycle until they came across the German man and his friends at the park. They also brought a garden hoe as 'protection' in case they encountered any rival gang members ..."
"After seeing the German and his friends, the three teenagers reportedly dared each other to imitate the murder of two British backpackers on the southern island of Koh Tao on 15 September, in which the tourists were brutally beaten to death by a garden hoe. [The 17-year-old] reportedly accepted the challenge "out of drunkenness" and proceeded to beat the German and his friends with the garden hoe he had brought from home. The other two suspects soon joined in ..."
The three suspects have initially been charged with physical assault leading to grave injuries, but will also be charged with murder if the victim dies from his injuries.

16/ Nov/ 2014
American Questioned Over Baby Body Parts Found in Parcel Destined for US
The Nation: "Police Sunday interrogated an American who attempted to send parcels of baby parts to his friend in the United States ... the man was released after he said he bought the parts from a night market in Thonburi [Bangkok]. DHL officials detected the baby parts when they x-rayed the parcel Saturday ... police suspected the parts were stolen from a medical school."
AFP has a few more details: "The body parts of several babies have been found in a parcel destined for the United States, Thai police said Sunday. A baby's head, several feet and 'sheets of skin' - including one taken from an adult and bearing a large tattoo - were discovered Saturday after staff at a Bangkok parcel company scanned the package ... The parts were found preserved in containers filled with formaldehyde solution, leading [police] to speculate they could be for 'a collection or for educational purposes'."
A police source is quoted as saying: "They were not from one body but were in small pieces ... They have been sent for forensic examination to confirm if they were from babies who died after delivery or in the womb." While police did not reveal any details of where the parcel was addressed to in the US, local media reported it was destined for an address in Las Vegas.

15/ Nov/ 2014
New Requirements for ED Visa Holders in Phuket, Bangkok
Thaivisa.com report today they have been "made aware of new rules being enforced in Phuket for those studying on a so called ED-Visa. The new rules are with regards to the amount of time students are required to study. With immediate effect students in Phuket are now required to attend classes 5 times per week, for 2 hours per class ... It has also been confirmed to Thaivisa that in Bangkok there is a requirement for students to attend classes 4 times per week for 2 hours per class ... Thaivisa.com is currently working to seek official confirmation if these new rules will come into practice nationwide."
Previously, Thai language students had to attend classes only two times per week, for two hours each, in order to be eligible to apply for/extend a Non-immigrant ED visa. So far, it seems, the new rules are not being enforced in Pattaya yet.

15/ Nov/ 2014
Russian Tourist Injured As She Fights Off Bag Snatcher in Pattaya
A female Russian tourist sustained hand injuries Friday night when an 23-year-old Thai man slashed her with a knife in an attempt to snatch her purse and she tried to fight him off.
The 22-year-old woman told police that she and her Russian boyfriend had just left their hotel and were walking down Soi 5 at around 11 pm Friday night when the young Thai man parked his motorcycle next to the couple and attempted to grab her purse. When the she refused to let go of her bag, the man attacked her with a knife before fleeing the scene on his motorcycle. According to Khaosod English and the Bangkok Post, the woman suffered knife wounds on her right hand.
The suspect was later caught by a group of bystanders about 500 metres away from the crime scene. The 23-year-old man told police he used to work in a karaoke bar in South Pattaya which recently went out of business. Left without an income, he said he decided to rob foreign tourists because he had no money.

14/ Nov/ 2014
Thai Airways Reports Nine Billion Baht Losses in Nine Months
Thailand's embattled national carrier, Thai Airways International, today reported a "consolidated net loss of 9,117 million baht for the first nine months of this year." Thai PBS reports that the 9+ billion Baht loss "represented a 2,864 million baht increase from the same period last year".
THAI's acting president "attributed the loss for the past nine months to the tourism industry [what else?]and tough competition in the industry ... As a consequence, THAI suffered a 15% drop in passengers from 16.20 million in the same period last year to 13.77 million this year. The average number of seats sold per flight slipped to 70%, down nearly 10 percentage points from one year earlier ..."

Thailand After The Coup
- It's half a year now since army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, on May 22, seized power from the elected government in the country’s 12th successful coup since 1932. The constitution was suspended and, in late July, replaced with an interim constitution, which grants amnesty to the coup makers and gives the junta, aka the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), sweeping powers. On July 31, Thai king Bhumibol Adulyadej endorsed the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), whose 200 members were all appointed by the junta. A clear majority is dominated by active and retired military officers. On August 21, the NLA unanimously appointed junta/army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha as the new prime minister of Thailand. On August 31, Prayuth received royal endorsement for his 32-member cabinet. More than a third of the members are retired or active military and police officers and members of the NCPO. The coup has drawn widespread yet mostly ignored criticism from the international community, including the United States and the European Union, which has urged a quick return to electoral democracy.
- A nationwide night-time curfew imposed following the military intervention on May 22 was lifted on June 13. Martial law, imposed two days before the coup, however remains in force until further notice. 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. Tourists and expats 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, border checkpoints etc. have continued to operate as usual and the country remains safe for tourists.
- The interim constitution has been heavily criticized for being undemocratic and further strengthening the military's powers. In particular, the interim constitution puts NCPO/army chief Prayuth "in charge of national security, allowing him to suppress any action ... that could be considered a threat to national peace, security, economy or the monarchy ... all orders from the junta chief ... on those matters are final." The constitution further stipulates that all of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA)'s members would be appointed by the junta. While the interim constitution fails to precisely specify a time frame for the country's promised return to democracy following the implementation of vaguely defined political "reforms", a new general election is scheduled to be held not before October 2015; provided the situation is sufficiently "stable" and the junta-appointed government has accomplished its self-proclaimed task of achieving "reconciliation". When a new permanent charter is in place (likely not before summer 2015 and without a referendum) the junta hopes that its attempts at reforming the politically divided nation would ultimately lead to a government "all people can accept".
- On July 31, Thai king Bhumibol Adulyadej officially endorsed the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), whose 200 members were all appointed by the NCPO. A clear majority is dominated by active and retired military officers. The rest mostly consists of businesspeople, academics, technocrats and former appointed senators who opposed the ousted government and are known for their anti-Thaksin stance. Junta chief Prayuth responded to "criticism that the NLA was not democratically set up", by saying that under the new government, there would be "temporary Thai-style democracy".
- On August 21, the junta-appointed NLA unanimously appointed junta/army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha as the new prime minister. No other candidate was nominated for the post, and no lawmaker voted against Prayuth's appointment. On August 31, Prayuth received royal endorsement for his 32-member cabinet. More than a third of the members - 12 - are retired and active military and police officers and members of the NCPO, while the civilian portion includes longstanding allies of the military. Despite the formation of a semi-civilian interim government and Prayuth's appointment as new prime minister, the junta has reaffirmed that it would not revoke martial law any time soon.
- The junta explained the military takeover by telling the foreign media it had to launch the coup because political divisions had put the country at risk of "civil war". The NCPO said it sought to "return happiness" to the people and establish reconciliation and national unity; aims they were determined to achieve by stamping out "colour-coded" (red/yellow) political divisions and the influence of Thaksin Shinawatra, and by depoliticizing Thai society.
- Following the military's power seizure, the media were strictly advised to self-censor themselves and prohibited from disseminating "content prohibited by the junta". All TV stations, including foreign news channels, were banned on the day of the coup (most were allowed to resume operating later). A total of 14 partisan TV channels with links to political parties and groups were only allowed to resume broadcasting weeks after the military takeover and on the condition that they strictly follow the rules set by NCPO, i.e. refrain from disseminating "prohibited content" and criticizing the junta and its operations.
- 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, that criticize the NCPO and disseminate "content prohibited by the junta". Social media users, blogs and websites have been explicitly warned not to post any content and comments that could "incite unrest". A temporary Facebook outage on May 28 prompted a swift outcry among Thai Internet users but was officially blamed on a "technical glitch". An "online content monitoring committee" has since 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.
- 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. More than a dozen new lese majeste cases have reportedly been filed since the military takeover. Arrest warrants have also 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.
- Following a week of small anti-coup protests mainly in Bangkok immediately after the coup, no larger coordinated protest activities have been reported since. As criticism of the junta is virtually illegal and the NCPO has explicitly warned people against joining anti-coup protests or face arrest and detention, all dissent has been effectively silenced for now and/or forced to "go underground".
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