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  • Council Comes Under Fire Over University Entrance Exam Stance
    The Council of University Presidents of Thailand (CUPT) has drawn widespread criticism after declaring that students infected with COVID-19 at the time of their scheduled appointment cannot take this year’s university admission test, but will have to wait until next year at the earliest. The exam dates begin in March and the application period runs...

    The Council of University Presidents of Thailand (CUPT) has drawn widespread criticism after declaring that students infected with COVID-19 at the time of their scheduled appointment cannot take this year’s university admission test, but will have to wait until next year at the earliest.

    The exam dates begin in March and the application period runs from 21st January to 9th February. The issue has sparked a backlash on social media, with the hashtag campaign #banCUPT subsequently going viral on Twitter.

    It started when an administrator of the CUPT’s “Mytcas” Facebook page replied to an inquiry by stating that infected applicants will not be able to take the test, and that their examination date will be postponed until 2023 or later. The administrator also suggested they consider choosing alternative subjects to study at colleges that do not require test scores.

    Chalie Charoenlarpnopparut, the vice-rector for academic affairs at Thammasat University and manager of the Thai University Central Admission System, responded by saying the administrator was correct in issuing such comments.

    The CUPT said it has no measures in place for applicants who are found to have contracted COVID-19 at their scheduled examination date.

    Applicants with a high temperature must undergo a COVID-19 test using an antigen test kit. If the test returns negative, they will be taken to a specially arranged room. However, those who test positive will not be able to proceed with the exam.

    Arunee Kasayanond, deputy secretary-general of the Pheu Thai Party, called on the education minister, the CUPT and student union representatives to seek another way for infected students to sit the exam.

    22 January 22 2022
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  • Free Counselling For Foreign Retirees
    Thailand is stepping up its assistance for foreign retirees and their Thai spouses by providing free counselling on inheritance and other legal issues under international laws. This support is being carried out by the Office of International Peoples’ Rights Protection, which falls under the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). The kingdom has become a...

    Thailand is stepping up its assistance for foreign retirees and their Thai spouses by providing free counselling on inheritance and other legal issues under international laws.

    This support is being carried out by the Office of International Peoples’ Rights Protection, which falls under the Office of the Attorney General (OAG).

    The kingdom has become a popular destination for foreign retirees to spend the rest of their days, where they can enjoy its advanced healthcare system, low cost of living, good weather and culture.

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    In cases where the foreign retiree tends to marry a Thai spouse, they can face problems including inheritance issues when they divorce or if their spouse dies.

    To deal with such matters, Charkrawan Saengkhae, executive director of the aforementioned office, said the OAG is now providing a free counselling service.

    Apart from inheritance issues, they can consult about matters related to their children’s nationality, conscription for male offspring, and domestic violence.

    As a basic rule, Mr Saengkhae said all healthy males with Thai citizenship who reside in Thailand are required to report to a conscription officer when they reach age 20.

    “Most Thais don’t realise that our regulations prohibit children who are born in the kingdom from holding multiple citizenships. The Nationality Act states that when they turn 20, they must decide whether to keep their Thai citizenship or not,” Artra Khunthongjan of OAG said, adding foreign spouses are more likely to take their adopted children or stepchildren back to their home country before reaching this age.

    “Many foreigners have asked the Consular Affairs Department for help in numerous cases. We have also provided assistance in the event of deaths or road accidents, and also transferred cases to their country of origin,” Mr Khunthongjan added.

    Pol Capt Tippiroon Suwannakul of the OAG referred to a 2019 case when the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service asked the office to search for a tourist who had gone missing on Koh Samui, as his wife also had inheritance issues to deal with. The office asked a local court to grant her the rights she needed to resolve this, she said.

    “We don’t provide help to Thais who live in other countries, but we do for foreigners in Thailand in accordance with international human rights laws and related human rights conventions,” Pol Capt Suwannakul said.

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    22 January 22 2022
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  • Government Vows To Maintain Price Controls
    The government has pledged to cap the prices of diesel and cooking gas for as long as possible to stabilise the costs of consumer goods. Speaking after a joint meeting with Energy Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow, permanent secretary for energy Kulit Sombatsiri, and Wattanasak Sur-iam, director-general of the Internal Trade Department, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha ordered...

    The government has pledged to cap the prices of diesel and cooking gas for as long as possible to stabilise the costs of consumer goods.

    Speaking after a joint meeting with Energy Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow, permanent secretary for energy Kulit Sombatsiri, and Wattanasak Sur-iam, director-general of the Internal Trade Department, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha ordered related agencies yesterday to prepare advance management plans to cope with rising global oil prices.

    The premier also assigned them to find a balance in the supply of palm oil for food and energy, as well as enhance liquidity to stabilise the state Oil Fund if global oil prices continue to increase.

    According to Gen Chan-o-cha, the government vows to cap the diesel price at 30 baht per litre and cooking gas at 318 baht per 15-kilogramme cylinder until 31st March.

    “The government will keep on trying to seek budget to curb the price of diesel and cooking gas for as long as possible to alleviate the impact on the cost of living. The government is considering finding an additional budget to shore up the state Oil Fund used to subsidise retail diesel prices.”

    The Energy Ministry reported that as of 16th January, the state Oil Fund was 8.7 billion baht in the red.

    The National Energy Policy Council chaired by Gen Chan-o-cha approved on 5th November 2021, the Oil Fund borrowing 30 billion baht to subsidise retail diesel prices.

    The first batch of borrowing tallying 20 billion baht is scheduled for this month, with a second batch tallying 10 billion to be secured later should oil prices rise further.

    The borrowing is used to subsidise retail diesel prices, which are now capped at 30 baht per litre.

    Mr Punmeechaow said earlier the government expects the first batch of 20 billion baht to help cap diesel prices for a period of only four months.

    In a related development, Gen Prayut asked the Commerce Ministry to better manage prices of pork and other consumer goods, while promising the state will continue to implement measures to alleviate the cost of living, especially for low-income earners.

    “The government has a limited budget, so relief measures must be in line with the government’s fiscal and monetary framework,” he said.

    21 January 21 2022
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  • Tourism Operators Call For PCR Test Price Cuts
    Tourism operators want the government to reduce the cost of RT-PCR tests as all inbound travellers now must take two tests and book a hotel on the fifth day as part of new rules under the Test & Go scheme, effective from 1st February. “There’s no exception for Thais or expatriates. Even if you have...

    Tourism operators want the government to reduce the cost of RT-PCR tests as all inbound travellers now must take two tests and book a hotel on the fifth day as part of new rules under the Test & Go scheme, effective from 1st February.

    “There’s no exception for Thais or expatriates. Even if you have a permanent home here, people have to check-in at a hotel five days after arrival to take a second RT-PCR test and wait for a negative result before checking out,” said Yuthasak Supasorn, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor.

    The Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration reinstated Test & Go registration for every country from 1st February.

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    All participants in the scheme must pre-book two RT-PCR tests and two hotel rooms for arrival and the fifth day, which differs from previous rules that required a test upon arrival and only one night in a hotel.

    Mr Supasorn said fake check-ins are prohibited as SHA Plus hotel managers are required to monitor guest records and report back to the central system.

    Foreign tourists can choose a different hotel for the fifth day than the first night.

    Ratchaporn Poolsawadee, president of the Tourism Association of Koh Samui, said each RT-PCR test in Koh Samui costs 2,200 baht.

    The price should be slashed to 1,500 baht because the added cost will affect travel sentiment, particularly among younger tourists with budget concerns, he said.

    “When the viral situation is under control in 1-2 months, the government should relax the rule by requiring just one RT-PCR test and allowing an ATK for the second test,” said Mr Poolsawadee.

    Thanet Supornsahasrungsi, acting president of the Chon Buri Tourism Council, said the government has to control the price of RT-PCR tests at 1,300 baht, which is the same rate the authority helped to subsidise for second tests for Test & Go registrants before the programme was temporarily suspended.

    He said a RT-PCR test in Pattaya costs around 1,600 baht. If the country can offer cheaper travel-related costs, it might be able to lure more tourists, said Mr Supornsahasrungsi.

    Moreover, the back-end systems of tracking apps like MorChana and COSTE have to be fully synchronised to effectively alert tourists to take the second test, he said.

    A system for the two RT-PCR tests needs to be in place during the first stage of reopening before easing those measures when the outbreak subsides, said Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of the Thai Hotels Association.

    However, the government should cover the cost of the second test for Thai returnees or foreign workers to ease their burden as they have to pay for an extra hotel room plus an additional test on day five, said Mrs Nunbhakdi.

    She said hotels hope to see gradual growth after the resumption of Test & Go next month.

    Assuming Test & Go resumes next month, TAT predicts in the first quarter Thailand will earn 26 billion baht from 338,645 international tourists.

    The agency projects 27 million domestic trips for the period, generating 137 billion baht based on a boost from the fourth phase of the hotel subsidy.

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    20 January 20 2022
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  • NACC Data Centre Opened To Keep Tabs On Corruption
    The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has opened a centre for data analysis in an effort to prevent misconduct and corruption among state agencies. Niwatchai Kasemmongkol, secretary-general and spokesman for NACC, on Wednesday, said the Corruption Deterrence Centre (CDC) will closely monitor information on alleged acts of corruption submitted by various agencies and the media. Mr...

    The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has opened a centre for data analysis in an effort to prevent misconduct and corruption among state agencies.

    Niwatchai Kasemmongkol, secretary-general and spokesman for NACC, on Wednesday, said the Corruption Deterrence Centre (CDC) will closely monitor information on alleged acts of corruption submitted by various agencies and the media.

    Mr Kasemmongkol said that once the information is obtained by the CDC it will be loaded into its database and analysed.

    The centre will gather data from both domestic and international networks.

    NACC officials will be assigned to further gather first-hand information related to the data and conduct further investigations, Mr Kasemmongkol said.

    Phuthep Taweechotthanakun, NACC assistant spokesman, said the CDC’s efforts will help Thailand deal with increasingly complex forms of corruption.

    The NACC also has regulations that provide protection to state officials who report any suspicious and/or corrupt behaviour involving their supervisors or colleagues, he said.

    Such whistleblowers will be treated as witnesses in cases, Mr Taweechotthanakun said.

    Mr Kasemmongkol said that at present, there are many channels through which people can report incidences of corruption.

    Apart from the CDC, the government also has the Damrongdham complaints centre for the public to submit complaints about alleged corruption, Mr Kasemmongkol said. Each ministry also has its own centre to receive public complaints regarding corruption, he added.

    Previously, the Royal Thai Police’s Anti-Corruption Division worked with the Department of Special Investigation, the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission and the Office of the Auditor-General of Thailand and the NACC to monitor graft in each region.

    20 January 20 2022
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  • Test & Go For Overseas Arrivals To Be Restored Soon
    The Test & Go programme will be reintroduced soon while entry rules under the scheme will be tweaked to allow close monitoring of overseas arrivals’ health, said Gen Supoj Malaniyom, head of operations at the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA). Gen Malaniyom, also secretary-general of the National Security Council, added that Test & Go...

    The Test & Go programme will be reintroduced soon while entry rules under the scheme will be tweaked to allow close monitoring of overseas arrivals’ health, said Gen Supoj Malaniyom, head of operations at the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).

    Gen Malaniyom, also secretary-general of the National Security Council, added that Test & Go rules need to be tightened. The CCSA is looking into ways to monitor the health of overseas arrivals during the first seven days of entry.

    It appears that under the tightening of the programme, arrivals will undergo two RT-PCR tests during their initial seven days, the first upon arrival and the second on the fifth or sixth day.

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    Before the programme was suspended earlier this month due to the emergence of the Omicron variant, overseas visitors only had to spend one night at a hotel. If their COVID-19 test was negative, they were free to leave their accommodation and enjoy their holidays. Gen Malaniyom said the CCSA on Wednesday assessed the pandemic situation in the kingdom and found that daily caseloads, which had shot up previously, were now stabilising.

    The centre is considering adjusting areas with varying degrees of COVID-19 prevalence and easing some restrictions to allow greater mobility. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has insisted measures should be modified where necessary to help revive the economy.

    Also on Wednesday, the Public Health Ministry suggested that overseas visitors take out comprehensive health insurance that covers all COVID-19 treatment cases. Dr Kiattiphum Wongrajit, the public health permanent secretary, said visitors must ensure they are fully covered for all types of Covid-19 treatments.

    Partial insurance coverage leaves the government to pick up the rest of the bill. So far, 100 million baht of state funds have been disbursed. “We will no longer subsidise. The visitors must buy insurance that covers all treatments or purchase additional health insurance when they arrive here,” Dr Wongrajit said. “The measure will take effect when Test & Go is reintroduced.”

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    20 January 20 2022
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  • New Rules To Woo Wealthy Foreigners Approved
    The cabinet yesterday approved rules to woo affluent foreigners for lengthy stays. The targets are the rich, retirees, remote workers and experts. It aims to boost the economy and investment in the country. Deputy government spokeswoman Rachada Dhnadirek said the new regulations were proposed via two ministerial announcement drafts by the Interior Ministry and the...

    The cabinet yesterday approved rules to woo affluent foreigners for lengthy stays. The targets are the rich, retirees, remote workers and experts. It aims to boost the economy and investment in the country.

    Deputy government spokeswoman Rachada Dhnadirek said the new regulations were proposed via two ministerial announcement drafts by the Interior Ministry and the Labour Ministry.

    They target foreigners with enormous wealth, wealthy pensioners, foreigners who want to work from Thailand, and highly skilled professionals.

    The Interior Ministry’s rules offer long-term resident (LTR) visas to applicants, each with up to four family members including legal children aged not over 20. The Board of Investment (BoI) will set the qualifications of the applicants.

    The visas will be valid for five years and be renewable for up to five years. The total validity period is capped at 10 years. Visa holders will pay an annual fee of 10,000 baht and will inform officials of their residential addresses yearly.

    After receiving their visas, the successful applicants can apply for a work permit. Both they and their accompanying family members can request different kinds of visas later in compliance with the rules set by the Immigration Bureau. The other announcement draft came from the Labour Ministry, Ms Dhnadirek said.

    It allows foreigners to start working as soon as they file their work permit request, without having to wait for their work permits to arrive.

    If they have employers, their work permits will be valid as long as their employment contracts last, up to a maximum of five years. However, the work permits can be extended to meet their employment contracts for up to five years at a time.

    Those who have their own business can seek work permits for up to five years and the permits can also be renewed for up to five years at a time.

    Anyone who violates the regulations under the ministerial announcements will lose their LTR visas and work permits immediately, Ms Dhnadirek cautioned.

    19 January 19 2022
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  • Govt To Ease Restrictions – Chiang Mai & Chonburi On Sandbox Shortlist
    The government will lower the COVID-19 alert level and is considering easing more restrictions to boost the economy, the health minister said on Tuesday, in response to a lower infection rate. Among measures being considered are establishing more “sandbox” areas for tourists, who can skip quarantine if they stay in specified areas for seven days...

    The government will lower the COVID-19 alert level and is considering easing more restrictions to boost the economy, the health minister said on Tuesday, in response to a lower infection rate.

    Among measures being considered are establishing more “sandbox” areas for tourists, who can skip quarantine if they stay in specified areas for seven days and undergo two COVID-19 tests.

    Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul told reporters new sandbox areas could include Chiang Mai, Chonburi, Khon Kaen and Samut Prakan provinces.

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    The scheme, a calibrated move to rebuild the decimated tourism sector, currently operates in Phuket, Phang Nga, Krabi and Koh Samui.

    Mr Charnvirakul added that the ‘Test and Go’ scheme that allows free movement to tourists who pass one Covid test on arrival could be revived as soon as February.

    He said that since the number of coronavirus-related deaths and severe illnesses was in decline and the outbreak should soon be under control, the COVID-19 alert level will be lowered to 3, from 4, on the government’s 5-level system.

    He added the Public Health Ministry will on Thursday propose adjustments to the colour-coded control zones to the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA). Adjustments in the capital would be decided by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA).

    However, he said, nightclubs, pubs and bars will remain closed for now.

    The country has recorded 2.3 million cases of COVID-19 and almost 22,000 deaths overall. Nearly two-thirds of residents are vaccinated and 13.5% have received boosters.

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    19 January 19 2022
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  • PM Vows To Cooperate With UN Over Myanmar Crisis
    Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has vowed to cooperate with the UN secretary-general’s Special Envoy on Myanmar to seek a humanitarian solution to the ongoing conflict in Myanmar. Noeleen Heyzer yesterday paid a courtesy call on the prime minister at Government House during which she praised Thailand’s efforts to help to restore peace, as well as...

    Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has vowed to cooperate with the UN secretary-general’s Special Envoy on Myanmar to seek a humanitarian solution to the ongoing conflict in Myanmar.

    Noeleen Heyzer yesterday paid a courtesy call on the prime minister at Government House during which she praised Thailand’s efforts to help to restore peace, as well as began discussions with Gen Chan-o-cha over implementing an Asean-wide five-point consensus on moving towards a permanent end to the country’s troubles.

    “Gen Chan-o-cha will back a push for a lasting solution in Myanmar under a bilateral context that includes ASEAN and the UN,” government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said.

    He said the prime minister told the UN special envoy that Myanmar has a complex ethnic history, and a gradual solution is needed to build trust with the Myanmar leader.

    “This is the first important step towards solving problems [in Myanmar],” Mr Thanakorn quoted the prime minister as saying.

    For humanitarian assistance, Thailand has come up with plans to designate areas to accommodate Myanmar refugees under strict COVID-19 prevention measures, Mr Wangboonkongchana said.

    In turn, Ms Heyzer urged immediate action to assist the most vulnerable victims of the conflict and prevent “further deterioration of the crisis in Myanmar, where an implosion would bring further instability to the already volatile border area”.

    “We discussed my recent engagements with the ASEAN Chair and the need for close cooperation with the ASEAN Special Envoy to help build on initiatives that could create pathways for effective implementation of the Five-Point Consensus acceptable to all stakeholders in Myanmar.

    This requires regional unity and coherent international support but most importantly, indicators and results on the ground. Any goodwill towards protecting the people of Myanmar and their livelihoods needs to be demonstrated in concrete terms,” Ms Heyzer said.

    18 January 18 2022
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  • Anutin Wants To Restore Test & Go As Omicron Replaces Delta Variant
    Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul will propose restoring the Test & Go programme to win back overseas visitors and accelerate the economic recovery. The minister said on Monday he will ask the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) to relax restrictions stepped up early this year in response to the Omicron...

    Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul will propose restoring the Test & Go programme to win back overseas visitors and accelerate the economic recovery.

    The minister said on Monday he will ask the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) to relax restrictions stepped up early this year in response to the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

    His request will be put to the centre after a discussion with the Department of Disease Control which confirmed that the fast-spreading Omicron variant caused milder symptoms with far fewer hospitalisations and deaths.

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    As Omicron is within the government’s ability to control it, measures to spur the economy, which were halted earlier, will be resumed amid a Covid-safe setting.

    Mr Charnvirakul noted the public cooperated well in addressing Omicron, which is now the country’s dominant coronavirus strain.

    In the past few weeks, daily caseloads have surged although they now appear to be levelling off.

    The public health minister said approval will be sought from the CCSA, chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, to resume the Test & Go programme under which overseas visitors spend only one night at a hotel. If their COVID-19 test turns out negative, they are free to leave that accommodation and enjoy their holidays.

    Mr Charnvirakul said it was unclear when the CCSA is expected to meet to consider his request.

    He insisted a balance must be struck between keeping a guard up against the pandemic and restoring the economy.

    However, Mr Charnvirakul stopped short of confirming if reopening entertainment venues will be among measures he had in mind to ease restrictions. He said this issue needs careful consideration. Clubs and bars were blamed for triggering infection clusters, especially during New Year celebrations.

    Meanwhile, Omicron has almost completely replaced the Delta variant in Bangkok, said the Centre for Medical Genomics at Ramathibodi Hospital.

    Via Facebook, the centre said checks of COVID-19 infections among patients in state-run and private hospitals in the capital and surrounding provinces showed Omicron accounts for 91% of cases and Delta 2.8%. The checks were performed from 3rd-16th January.

    According to the centre, after a brief period of ‘Twindemic’, referring to the parallel infections between the Omicron and Delta strain ending, Omicron will be prevalent throughout the country.

    “That is when almost everyone will be infected with Omicron at one time or another. After that people will have built a high immunity either from the vaccine or the infection,” the centre said.

    “The intensity of COVID-19 symptoms will decline and fatalities will be significantly reduced,” the centre said, adding the cross-technology vaccination formula was also working well to boost immunity.

    COVID-19 is likely to evolve into an endemic or a seasonal disease, it said.

    Also on Monday, Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth, president of Bangkok Airways, said airlines wanted the government to bring back the Test & Go programme, as long as the health risk posed by Omicron was carefully assessed.

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    18 January 18 2022
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