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Pattaya & Thailand News Update

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

31/ July/ 2014
New Overstay Rules to Take Effect Late August: Reports
Regarding the newly-announced immigration rule which will see "visa overstayers" of more than 90 days potentially blacklisted for 1-10 years, the Bangkok Post reported Wednesday: "Foreigners overstaying their visa in Thailand likely will face bans of up to 10 years starting August 25." This is based on a quote from a high-ranking immigration official who reportedly told the Bangkok Post on Tuesday: "[The new rule] is expected to take effect on August 25 after being approved by the [interior] ministry."
The Nation, on the other hand, reports today: "Starting from August 29, the ban will be imposed on any foreigner found to have overstayed his or her visa or visa-exemption period." But regardless of whether it's August 25 or 29 - overstayers have been warned to leave the country and clear their overstay a.s.a.p. if they want to avoid getting blacklisted. The Nation also adds some interesting figures: "Last year, a total of 70,715 foreigners were charged with overstaying their visas. Between January and June this year, the number of visa overstayers reached 30,359."
Until now, tourists who "overstayed" their visa were usually simply fined 500 Baht/day up to a maximum of 20,000 Baht. According to the new rules, however, foreigners who overstay their visa for more than 90 days will be prohibited from returning to Thailand for 1-10 years. Further details were published recently on the website of the Immigration Bureau: http://bangkok.immigration.go.th/popup_anounce.html.

30/ July/ 2014
Foreigners Must Carry Original Passport, Report Address Change Within 24 Hours
According to a report on ThaiVisa.com on Tuesday, immigration in Hua Hin announced that "from today [July 29, they will be] enforcing the existing rule that foreigners are required to carry a valid photo ID at all times." In an update on Wednesday, ThaiVisa.com further clarifies that only the original passport is a valid ID as required by immigration; a Thai/foreign driving licence or a copy of your passport "verified and stamped by immigration" are not acceptable! Also note: While this has been an existing (yet mostly ignored) rule for many years, it should be expected that immigration will soon start to enforce this rule nationwide, not just in Hua Hin.
The Superintendent of Prachuap Khirikhan and Phetchaburi Immigration is quoted as saying: "By law, all tourists and expats nationwide are required to carry their original passports with them at all times. There is no exception to this. Failure to carry your original passport may result in a 2,000 THB fine. The reason behind this is that Immigration needs to keep track of overstayers and foreign criminals who may be staying illegally in the country." He emphasizes that "no other forms of identification are acceptable. This includes any other form of photo ID, such as a Thai/foreign driving license or a photocopy of your passport ... Therefore, you are required to keep your original passport with you at all times ..."
As stated above, failure to carry your passport may result in a fine of 2,000 Baht; of course, violators would also be at risk of a thorough "background check" at the local immigration office, just to make sure you have a valid visa and are not on any "wanted list".
The original report on Tuesday further added: "Hua Hin Immigration is from today also enforcing the requirements that you and your landlord (condominium owner, house owner etc.) must report to Immigration within 24 hours of moving in to a new address. On your arrival card you already reported your place of stay, and if that changes you need to visit Immigration and report your new address."
Note: If you're a tourist, the hotel where you're staying must report you to immigration; so this is more relevant to expats and long-stayers. Furthermore, this is basically also an existing rule which immigration is only expected to enforce nationwide soon, not just in Hua Hin. So in case you change your address in the future, e.g., you move in to another condo or house, you must now visit your local immigration office and fill a certain form notifying them of your address change. The required form can be downloaded from the ThaiVisa website.
Finally, to make things even more complicated for people who don't stay in hotels all the time, there is also another new reporting obligation applying to foreigners who visit another province (than the one where they are registered) and stay there for more than 48 hours; e.g. if you visit your Thai girlfriend's home in the countryside for a week or so during your stay. ThaiVisa.com reports: "In that case the reporting of the new address must be provided to the police, or the immigration, within 48 hours." The applicable form can also be downloaded from the ThaiVisa website.


28/ July/ 2014
Spanish Man Arrested For 'ATM Skimming' in Pattaya
A Spanish man, who allegedly worked for a "Romanian gang", was arrested in Pattaya over the weekend for installing skimming devices in a number of ATMs around the city and stealing data from credit cards. A police raid on the suspect's residence reportedly turned up "one ATM card skimming device, 109 copies of ATM cards, and more than 1,000 blank ATM cards."
Khaosod English reports that Fernando Manuel Navaro, 56, used the stolen data to "create copies of the ATM cards and withdraw large amounts of money from the victims' bank accounts." While it is not known exactly how much money was stolen through the scheme, or what nationalities the victims were holding, police placed the figure at "tens of millions baht."
Police also alleged that Mr. Navaro worked for a "Romanian gang" that is operating in Pattaya: "He was hired by the Romanians to skim these ATM cards for 15,000 baht."
Mr. Navaro has been charged with producing counterfeit ATM cards and possessing a device to produce such cards. If found guilty, he could face up to six years in prison and a 100,000 baht fine.

25/ July/ 2014
New Stricter Requirements for Education Visa Extensions
In the last couple of weeks, we've had a crackdown on out/in visa runs (basically no longer possible after August 12), back-to back tourist visa applicants (holders may be denied entry to the kingdom if they are deemed not to be "genuine" tourists) and visa overstayers (an overstay of more than 90 days will soon see the offending foreigner blacklisted, i.e. prohibited from returning to Thailand for 1-10 years). Now education visa holders are obviously the next target.
ThaiVisa.com reports today that the Ministry of Education has announced new, stricter requirements for education visa extensions, which are due every 90 days, and released new application forms for ED visa extensions. The new requirements are obviously meant to prevent students from "abusing" ED visas to work illegally in the country and check whether the applicants are "genuine" students and can support themselves financially.
According to a post on ThaiVisa.com, the new requirements are:
1. Two year visa history of the student (currently only required for applications submitted in Bangkok)
2.  Extra documents required
- Proof of income (to see if the student can support themselves and not work illegally)
- Reason for long stay in Thailand, if extended time in Thailand prior to application (to check the student is not just a visa runner who cannot get any more tourists visas)
ThaiVisa.com has the two new forms available for download. The Personal History Check form explicitly asks the student what his/her "expenses per month during the course of study will be" and "who is supporting you financially" (relationship to and address of the "supporter" must also be given).


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 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 ..."

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 Dutch-Thai couple's assets worth an estimated 150 million Baht were frozen by authorities. They 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.
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, the sooner you leave the country - preferably via an airport checkpoint - the better are your chances! The announcement 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"


20/ July/ 2014
Visa Exemption Extension Period to be Extended from 7 to 30 Days
Here are finally some good news for "genuine" 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)."
If you wish to extend your visa-exempt stay for 30 days or extend a tourist visa at your local immigration office, you should bring with you "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 ..."

Thailand After The Coup  -  Latest Updates
In brief (for updates please scroll down) >>>
- It's more than two months 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. 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, all parliamentary authority rests with the army chief and his junta.
- 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 29 - The Bangkok Post: "[Junta/NCPO chief] Prayuth has submitted a list of 200 NLA members for royal endorsement ... A total of 110 of the 200 members are reportedly high-ranking officers in the armed forces ... and retired officers with close ties to the NCPO." The report also confirms rumours that army chief Prayuth will be nominated as the next prime minister. The Nation goes even one step further: "The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) will mostly comprise of active military officers and former senators, sources said ... The Armed Forces will nominate up to 140 officers to be part of the assembly, while most former senators will come [from] an appointed group that fully supports the coup and the junta." In other words: Thailand's next administration will only nominally/partially be a civilian government.
July 23 - A day after the interim charter proposed by the junta was royally endorsed, a legal adviser of the 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 ..."
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