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Saccharine sermon

Re "Govt 'gifts' need work," (Editorial, Jan 1).

Either that or solve all problems in the traditional Thai way by dressing up nicely and saying nice words like "virtue" and "reason" and "tradition" and "understanding" and "cooperation" (and "sufficiency", we mustn't forget sufficiency from the super-rich preaching to the poor) and so on until the people are saccharined into submission. Dare anyone doubt the amazing efficacy of such sublime wisdom founded on adamantine Thainess as gifted by decade after decade of it to this most fortunate of all Thai nations?

Felix Qui


Persuading no one

Re: "Cyberattack 'under control', says Trump," (BP, Dec 21).

"Under control", says Mr Trump -- contradicting his own cabinet officials and the country's intelligence experts. This from the same individual that assured America that the coronavirus was "under control" for months, as more than 300,000 Americans went to their graves. Somehow, I don't think Americans should feel very comfortable with the outgoing president's latest assurances.

Samanea Saman


Lasting damage

Re: "European Union is free at last," (Opinion, Dec 31).

There is no doubt that the old generation of the UK is still suffering from its colonial hangover. The Brexit cocktail served to this old nostalgic generation by selfish politicians has been used as an escape or a distraction from the real issues facing the country.

Mr Trump, once a close ally of Mr Johnson has also led an excessive attack on America's trading partners all across the globe. The reckless nationalist fervour created by both opportunistic leaders has resulted in unnecessary Covid deaths and hardships.

While closer to home we are celebrating Asean and its expansion with new initiatives, such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), it is quite surprising to see that the selfish and corrupt politicians in the UK and US are taking their countries backwards.

There is one thing Thailand can learn from the policy debacle in the UK and the US and it is that bad leadership can sink a country into malaise and misery.

In the UK the new immigration restrictions on the young generation to work in the EU, combined with high tariffs and taxes will certainly impair its economy. In the US the lopsided immigration and trade policies, combined with the Covid crisis, will result in further deaths and a decline in its economic status. Bad politicians may come and go but the legacy of hollow nationalistic initiatives, such as "Brexit" and "America First", is going to last, just wait and watch.

Kuldeep Nagi


The right to vote

I enjoyed your article about Britain and Brexit.

For sure Mr Johnson, a nationalist politician, lied to the British people to further his own career and, just like his Trans-Atlantic twin Mr Trump, he was able to get all the racists behind him. The reality in the UK, though, is that most of the British people who voted for Brexit are more than likely on benefits from the overly generous welfare system.

There is one obvious difference [with Thailand] though. Brexit took place because of real democracy: will that ever be able to happen here?

SJL


Impossible dream

Why aren't tourists flocking back to Thailand?

I am a frequent visitor to the country. I've travelled there some five times a year for the past 15 years. I'm familiar with the airports, immigration, the BTS, Metro etc. Airport workers, immigration officers often say hi to me "oh you're here again?" etc.

On Dec 8, the Bangkok Post said: "Thailand now open to the whole world". I said great! I always spend January and March in Thailand, now I can go. There's only a "few" new restrictions/hoops to jump through.

1. They require a 14-day quarantine period in a choice of what's called "ASQ" hotels, complete with meals etc.

2. They require a Covid negative test within 72 hours of travel.

3. They require special travel insurance that covers Covid-19.

4. I'll also need a special tourist visa to stay 60 days.

So, here we go: I start to apply online for the visa but I'm stopped at the space for "ASQ hotel" booking reference number, the insurance policy number and flight details. Now as a seasoned traveller, I am hesitant to purchase a flight ticket for a trip that may or may not take place.

I go online and apply for an ASQ hotel but I'm stopped at the space for "travel insurance policy number" and flight details.

I attempt to apply for the insurance ... but they first want the flight details.

I now book a ticket on Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong, using mileage points. This way the trip is refundable. The trip is scheduled for Dec 30 at 12.05am.

I purchase the insurance for $200 and book the ASQ Hotel with 50% deposit of 30,000 baht.

Now here comes the fun part. On Dec 9, I go online to apply for the visa, see approx 15 screens of questions, including some that cannot be answered. "Person you know in Thailand and their phone and passport number"?

I attempt to call the Thai consulate and continuously get a "this message bank is full" recording. Redial for a few hours, I get a staff member who suggests put the name of the hotel in the space for person you know, and put "none" in the passport space.

Continuing on, I fill in all the blanks and "Submit".

I don't receive any email confirmation. I wait until Dec 15, start the phone call marathon to the consulate again to ask them what do I do next. I get the visa staff member who says: "No, you must print out the application."

"But I already submitted online."

"No, you must print out and send in with your passport."

"OK, I have a FedEx envelope ready."

"Do not send FedEx, send USPS [United States Postal Service] overnight, with return envelope inside."

"Ok got it."

Back to the application, I find out that 1) you can't recall the previous application, and 2) you can't redo it either. I have to make a new application with a "different name" (the system rejects any attempt to reapply with the same name) that I will clarify on print-out an one screen page at a time, I print out this application.

On or about page 15, there are four simple "ticks" to check off. I do this and hit next. Oh no, I forgot to print that page! Now I must start all over again, with another "new' name" and redo all the details page by page and print.

All done, I stack the papers with my passport, and hurry down to the post office. Now it's Xmas time and the lines at the USPS are akin to Disneyland, Six Flags, or LAX security. Then it hit me! No one said if and how much this application will cost!

I go back home and start the phone call procedure again, then ask how much is this, and were you ever going to tell me this small detail? The staff member says US$40. There's a pause. I'm waiting for them to tell me how to pay them. "So, how do I do this? Cash, Cheque? Credit Card?", I ask. "No you must use Post Money Order".

Back to the post, send it all out. Done! Or so I thought.

Wednesday Dec 16, overnight envelope is received by Thai Consulate at 12 noon. I figured they would look it over, insert the visa and send it right back. I'd have everything within the next couple of days.

Dec 21 (8 days until travel date): I start calling the consulate at 10am, finally reaching someone at 11.45 to inquire as to my status.

"You must print out application."

"I did."

"No, you send wrong one, go to website and see application download."

"I'm on the site now, and it's not there."

"Wait, I'll check, where are you now?"

"3 hours away by car."

"OK, not far, you can come today?"

"Leaving in 10 minutes, I'll be there by 3.30."

3.30pm I arrive and in the lobby is a stack of these one-page applications, not to mention that the information requested on this form is exactly the same as the details on the papers I already sent in. I'm shown to the visa office, the same staff member, all smiles, says "not to worry, I already do it for you". As he hands me my passport with the visa attached inside, I see the stamped return envelope sitting on the desk. Wait, he could have simply put the passport in the overnight post? OK, whatever.

So, Christmas comes and goes, and now I need a Covid test in the next 3 days. So I'm all set to go ... or so I thought.

(This anecdote has a similar rhythm to Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant.)

Monday, Dec 28, midnight: I get an email from the ASQ Hotel requesting something called "Certificate of entry"? I call and let them know:

"I have this already, it's called a visa, that's what a visa is."

"No, it's a different form altogether."

"And where does one obtain such a form?"

"You get it at the Thai Consulate."

"The same place I got the visa?"

"Yes."

(Remember, this is the hotel reservations clerk I'm speaking to now.)

"I was just there last week, Any reason why no one there mentioned this ostensibly required document?"

"No."

"OK, I guess I'll ring the consulate in the morning and see what happens."

Now I'm starting to really think that this trip was not going to happen.

Tuesday Dec 29, 9.45am I'm ringing the consulate to inquire about this oversight. They straight away said they would email this to me in 5 minutes, which they did. I sent this back to the hotel (Its now midnight in BKK, and the reservations office is closed).

Tuesday Dec 29, 9pm: I arrive at the airport 3hrs ahead of gate time, of course it's empty, as there are only 30+ people booked on the flight, which has some 350 seats. The gate agent looks over all of my papers and after 10 minutes asks me for another form, something called "fit to fly".

"What is that?"

"Fit to fly."

"Yes, what is that?"

"Special form from a doctor indicating that you are fit to fly."

(I'm now thinking, I am actually a commercial pilot, but I am not working this trip, I'm not going to physically fly this plane.)

"Wait, that's what these are."

"No, that's Covid test papers."

"Yes, fit to fly."

"No No No, that says OK, you do not have Covid which is good, but you also need a paper that says you are healthy enough to fly I can see you are healthy but we need this paper that says so".

"So I guess I'm not going then, right?"

"No, cannot, so sorry nobody tell you before".

So, in the end, what did we learn?

1. These procedures are to ensure that anyone who wants to visit Thailand must first prove that they really want to go!

2. A visa, which is in fact an entry document is not the same as a certificate of entry.

3. A negative Covid test is no indication that you are fit to fly.

MODERNA, please make your vaccines available soon!

Stephan Karlsson


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