Public Health Minister Pradit Sintavanarong's proposal to introduce a medical tax for tourists is already creating a furore of negative commentary in the international media, with the UK's Mail Online, for example, flagging to readers that a family of four will have to pay an extra 40 sterling to enter the kingdom. Collecting 500 baht from each of the 24.5 million foreign tourists targeted for 2014 would raise a handy 12.2 billion baht in revenue, meaning that foreigners would be generously contributing an increment of 5% to Thailand's public health budget of 254.9 billion baht for 2013.
The Public Health Ministry's provincial office in Phuket has been quoted as estimating the annual level of losses from foreigners' unpaid medical bills at 5 million baht a year. Since Phuket hosts at least 40% of the kingdom's foreign tourist arrivals, we may assume that the total losses for the country amount to perhaps 10-20 million baht a year, or up to 0.2% of the funds the new tax would raise.
If the tax goes ahead, I hope the government will be willing to account for the money in a fully transparent manner, and will ensure that at least some part of the incremental budget will be used to provide outstanding emergency medical care for foreign tourists, many of whom will opt not to buy their own travel insurance, once they know about the new tax. Stories of misappropriation of funds and of foreigners being denied free emergency care or receiving substandard care after paying the tax will be extremely damaging to the tourist sector which is currently the only real engine of growth in the economy, generating nearly 1 trillion baht in foreign exchange in 2012.
Zero thought by Thaksin
Re: ''Thaksin backs panel on amnesty'' (BP Oct 24).
Deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra's choice of words in calling for a ''resetting back to zero'' has most unfortunate connotations. It was Pol Pot's Year Zero policies that heralded the Cambodian genocide in which some 2 million of its citizens were brutally murdered, starved to death or died of sickness.
That's hardly the sort of reconciliation that Thailand needs.
Quit droning about strikes
Re: ''America owes us transparency on drones'' (Opinion, Oct 24).
I read with disbelief that Amnesty International is calling the usage of drones in Pakistan crimes against humanity!
It's unfortunate that these unmanned flying aircraft are hated by the insurgents because they are very effective.
The drones are controlled by people far from the actual strike area.
There is a chain of command to be consulted before firing any weapons that involves many safety features.
The military command check has much detail so as not to involve collateral damage; if civilians are thought to be too near the target the drones are not used.
My point is that a suicide bomber or car bomber has no remorse in who is killed or hurt. Just recently a woman bomber got onto a crowded bus and blew herself up.
The bomber must have seen the many innocent people standing on the bus. The car bombers leave the vehicles in crowded places and just run away before the explosions!
These people are the people that Amnesty International needs to identify as committing crimes against humanity.
The use of drones compared with the cowards who are involved in suicide and car bombings doesn't equate.
CONTACT: BANGKOK POST BUILDING
136 Na Ranong Road Klong Toey, Bangkok 10110
Fax: +02 6164000 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
All letter writers must provide full name and address.
All published correspondence is subject to editing at our discretion.
Latest stories in this category:
- Postscript: No longer British, but still the 'brown stuff'
- We must say no to the dictatorship of the minority too
- Media mired by binary blinders
- Sustainable tourism policy needed now
- Postbag: Power to the people
- An agnostic's view of the democracy cult
- Postbag: Suthep loses the plot
- Thais must call halt to fighting