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Pattaya & Thailand News Update

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

29/ Jan/ 2015
Four Kuwaiti Tourists Attacked by Gang of 20 Thai Man at Go-Kart Track
Four young tourists from Kuwait were allegedly assaulted by about 20 Thai men at a go-kart track in Jomtien Wednesday night. Three Thai men were arrested at the scene and police are now looking for the other suspects, all believed to be employees of the kart racing track.
The victims, all aged between 18 and 20, had reportedly rented go-karts at the venue on Thepprasit Road when the vehicle of one of the tourists broke down and he sought help from staff to fix what appeared to be a mechanical problem.
Pattaya One reports that "during a prolonged verbal exchange with staff members, the situation quickly became tense and culminated in a fight between a reported 20 Thai men" and the small group of Kuwaiti tourists who all "sustained a variety of minor injuries consistent with a fist fight". Khaosod English has a police officer suggesting that the assault took place because the two groups "couldn't communicate".
Police are now reportedly "looking into the details" of what led to the coward gang attack on a small group of tourists before they "apportion blame to any of those involved".

29/ Jan/ 2015
Middle-Eastern Con-Artist Family Gang Steals 1,700 Dollars from Russian Tourist
A 26-year-old Russian tourist and his wife reportedly had 1,700 US dollars stolen by a "Middle-Eastern man, woman and child" outside a 24-hour convenience store in Naklua late Tuesday night.
Pattaya One reports that the Russian tourist "was about to enter the store when he was approached by a man, woman and child, who appeared to be of middle-eastern origin. The man asked if he could see some Russian rubles as he was curious as to how the bank notes looked. [The Russian] produced some rubles but the man asked if he could see the US dollar bills which were also inside his wallet. At one point [the Russian] handed over his wallet to the man who then returned the wallet before leaving with the woman and child."
Only when the Russian couple entered the store and came to pay for items at the counter, they realized that an alleged 1,700 US dollars were missing from the wallet. Police are now examining CCTV footage in the area in an attempt to track down the suspected thief.

28/ Jan/ 2015
High-Speed Rail Link Between Myanmar, Thailand & Cambodia in the Pipeline
The Thai and Japanese governments have agreed in principle on Wednesday on the joint development of a high-speed rail network linking Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia.
The planned route will connect the Dawei port project in Myanmar with Cambodia via Kanchanaburi at the Burmese border, Bangkok, Chachoengsao, and Aranyaprathet at the Cambodian border. From there, trains could continue via Poipet to Phnom Penh.
The route will reportedly use a standard rail gauge of 1.435 metres and run at a speed of more than 200 km/h. A a memorandum of understanding on the rail project is expected to be signed in Tokyo next month. The Bangkok Post has more details.

27/ Jan/ 2015
THAI Airways to Downsize Fleet and Reduce Non-Performing Routes
The State Enterprise Policy Committee has Monday approved in principle a stringent rehabilitation plan for Thailand's troubled national carrier Thai Airways International (THAI). Following losses of 12 billion Baht in 2013, THAI suffered losses of another nine billion Baht in the first three quarters of 2014, making urgent action inevitable.
The Nation reports that measures agreed in the rehabilitation plan will include a reduction of the airline's workforce from 25,000 to 20,000 and cancellation of non-performing routes.
For example, the Bangkok-Johannesburg route was cancelled on January 15 while the Bangkok-Madrid, Bangkok-Moscow and Bangkok-Los Angeles routes are likely to be axed in the second quarter of 2015.
A number of routes that "do not make a profit but are considered to have potential" may or may not be axed later this year. They include Bangkok-Rome, Bangkok-Milan, Bangkok-Brussels, Bangkok-Brisbane, Bangkok-Sapporo, Bangkok-Colombo, Bangkok-Denpasar and Bangkok-Hyderabad.
THAI will also sell 22 old aircraft and decommission 14 Boeing 747-400 and Airbus A 340-600 planes. In addition, THAI reportedly plans to sell its 39-percent stake in Nok Air and other businesses.

26/ Jan/ 2015
Waitress Nicks Iphone from Iranian Tourist in Walking Street Pub
A 22-year-old waitress in a pub on Walking Street that caters primarily to Middle-Eastern customers was arrested for stealing an IPhone 5 from an Iranian patron Saturday night as he "went to the toilet but left the phone on the table." The incident was caught on CCTV and the expensive phone later recovered from the waitress's locker where she had hid it after nicking it from the victim's table.
Pattaya One reports that the suspect had been serving the 24-year-old tourist drinks since he arrived in the pub, and that and phone was stolen when he "went to the toilet but left the phone on the table".
Even though the phone could be returned to its rightful owner (lucky man) the waitress was charged with theft and faces prosecution. Lesson to learn? Don't leave your phone unattended when you drink in a bar or anywhere else. As the saying goes, opportunity makes the thief ...

26/ Jan/ 2015
Drunk Norwegian Arrested for Damaging ATM on Jomtien Beach
A 46-year-old drunk Norwegian was arrested on Jomtien Beach Road late Saturday night for damaging a Siam Commercial Bank ATM located outside a 7-Eleven store at the corner of Soi 6. Pattaya Daily News report that the ATM was "smashed and damage had been done to the barcode scanner".
Pattaya One quotes food vendors as saying that the foreigner had earlier been sitting on the steps outside the convenience store and "drinking alcoholic beverages for some time. Drinks were found on the steps as mentioned by the witnesses."
The drunk Norwegian initially denied the allegations and claimed the ATM had been damaged before; so police checked CCTV footage in the area which confirmed that it had indeed been the Norwegian who, for reasons unknown, attacked and damaged the ATM. While it's still unclear how the bank wishes to proceed with the case, the Norwegian was initially arrested and faces further legal proceedings.

23/ Jan/ 2015
New ED Visa Requirements & Extension Rules Now Also Enforced in Pattaya
According to a thread on ThaiVisa.com, starting from next week, i.e. February 2015, the Chonburi Immigration office on Jomtien Soi 5 will enforce the same strict rules regarding the requirements for ED (education) visa holders and ED visa extension as immigration on Phuket and in Bangkok.
That means that, for example, Thai language students holding an ED visa will have to attend classes four times a week for two hours each, or for eight hours per week in total.
Also, when extending their visa for 90 days, ED visa holders will initially be given only a 15-day extension from now on. At the end of this 15-day "evaluation period" students must go back to Immigration and will be granted another extension of an additional 75 days. That means that for each 90-day period ED visa holders must visit immigration twice.

23/ Jan/ 2015
New Rules Regarding Alcohol Sales in Thailand?
Thai PBS has a bizarre article regarding an alleged new law governing the times when alcohol sales are allowed in Thailand. While we haven't heard or read about this new regulation which reportedly "takes effect today" anywhere else yet, and it remains to be seen how strictly it will be enforced (that is if it will be enforced) and whether it will have an impact on the bar industry, here's an excerpt of the vague and mistakable piece:
"Alcoholic beverages can now only be sold from 11.00 am - 2.00 pm and from 5.00 pm - 12.00 pm every day ... At all other times, alcohol sales are strictly forbidden with the exception of international airport terminals and legally registered entertainment venues which have laws that strictly govern the periods they can operate daily ... Airports are given the same allowance as before while entertainment venues which in the past were allowed to sell alcohol from 9.00 pm - 2.00 am can only do so up to midnight."
While this surely sounds pretty tough we're awaiting further clarification and expect that, at least for the time being, not much will change.

22/ Jan/ 2015
Mandatory SIM Card Registration for Prepaid Card Users
Thailand's National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) announced yesterday that from August 1, users of unregistered prepaid phone SIM cards will not be able to make calls or use data services on their devices unless they register their SIM cards with their mobile phone network operators by July 31.
The announcement will take effect on February 1, when people with unregistered SIM cards can start registering their personal information. After July 31, those failing to register subscriber information will not be able to make calls from their mobile phones or use data services, but only receive calls. Only when they register with their mobile phone operator they will be able to make calls again.
Starting on February 1, users can register their SIM cards directly with their mobile phone operators or through many other channels, including 8,000 branches of 7-Eleven convenience stores, branches of Big C and Tesco Lotus, and 1,200 branches of KrungThai bank.
Existing users have to register their SIM cards by showing their ID card or passport to their mobile phone operators by July 31. Registering new SIM cards using national ID cards or passports (in the case of foreign mobile phone users) will be allowed at 7-Eleven stores.
Thailand has 105 million mobile subscribers, including 90 million prepaid card users or 85.7% of the total number of mobile phone users. However, only 1.6 million prepaid card users have properly registered their numbers. Sources: Bangkok Post, The Nation

21/ Jan/ 2015
Foreigner Beaten Unconscious Over Bill Payment Issue at North Pattaya Bar
An unidentified foreign tourist was beaten unconscious by a security guard and a group of motorcycle taxi drivers outside a bar in North Pattaya where they thought he had not paid his bill.
The mob attack took place outside Honey Bar next to the V.I.P bar complex on Naklua Road, where the Western man, presumed to be in his Thirties, had reportedly spend the evening drinking. According to witnesses, his final bill totaled 1,300 Baht, which he didn't have on him in cash, so he gave the staff 600 Baht and informed them in English he would withdraw the remaining money from an ATM just across the road.
As the foreigner exited the bar and tried to cross the road, however, one of the bar's security guards apparently misunderstood the situation and thought the man was trying to flee the scene without settling his bill.
Pattaya One News report that the guard "shouted at the man to return but he continued to walk across the road. One of the guards then struck the victim over the head. A group of motorbike taxi drivers stationed nearby were called in to assist the guards, who then collectively assaulted the man until he was rendered unconscious." A total of six Thai men are thought to have been involved in the attack.
A security guard at the bar was quickly arrested but soon again released after the victim decided not to file a complaint against him. The other five men believed to be involved in the brutal assault reportedly promptly fled the scene and and will likely not be prosecuted either as the victim not only refused treatment in hospital but also walked away before police could question him. The identity or nationality of the foreigner are still unknown.

Thailand After The Coup
Note: This is a regularly updated post for politically interested readers; most developments reported here will remain largely invisible for and/or have no impact on the "average" tourist. As previously, Thailand remains safe for tourists, and most people will hardly notice that the country is effectively under military rule. You can enjoy your vacation in Thailand as usual, so don't let politics spoil your holiday plans.
- On May 22, 2014, two days after martial law had been declared, then-army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha 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 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 criticism from the international community, including the United States and the European Union, which has urged a quick return to electoral democracy. The NCPO, on the other hand, has mostly ignored its Western critics by insisting on fundamental political "reforms" before the country can return to democracy. A new general election cannot be expected before sometime late 2015 or, more likely, 2016.
- 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 and cannot expected to be lifted anytime soon. Democracy and civil liberties have been suspended in favour of a campaign of re-education and "returning happiness to the Thai people", ostensibly to foster unity and end colour-coded disputes. Political activities of any kind, public protests 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; some many even argue that, under military rule and without violent street protests, the country has become even safer. As for a majority of Thais, most developments reported here will also remain largely invisible for and/or have no impact on the "average" holidaymaker.
- The interim constitution has been heavily criticized for being undemocratic and further strengthening the military's powers. In particular, the interim constitution puts NCPO 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 late 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 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 cited the risk of "civil war" amid escalating political protests as the main reason for the military takeover. 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 by depoliticizing Thai society. In brief, the latest power seizure can be described the "ultimate anti-Thaksin punch" that seeks to continue there where the previous coup failed - eradicating the influence of Thaksin Shinawatra and his political legacy.
- 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 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". 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.
- In related news, in January 2015, the military-appointed Cabinet has approved a controversial bill that allows for mass surveillance of online activities and platforms. If passed into law, the so-called Cyber Security Act would authorize a government-run cyber security committee to access information on personal computers, mobile phones and other electronic devices without a court order.
- Since May 22, the ruling military junta has launched a wide crackdown on dissent aimed principally at elements aligned with controversial ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the "red shirts"/pro-democracy groups. 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. Dozens of state officials, provincial governors etc. aligned with the deposed government have been transferred to inactive posts since the coup.
- 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 alleged 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 - an early indicator that the lese majeste law will be actively used to fight dissident voices. 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. 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 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; military court rulings are final and cannot be appealed. More than a dozen new lese majeste cases have been filed since the military takeover; several suspects have been sentenced so far, and the number keeps on growing.
- Following a couple of weeks of small anti-coup protests mainly in Bangkok immediately after the coup, no larger coordinated protest activities have been reported and anti-coup sentiment remains confined to social media. 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, public dissent has been effectively silenced for now and/or forced to "go underground".
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