No wonder wine is expensive. An importer was recently sent four bottles of wine from Spain as samples for possible future distribution here. Simple enough, right? The importer thought so – until he got the bill: the agent wanted 28k baht to clear customs, 2k per bottle in duties and a further 20k for ‘handling.’ Which works out at 14k per bottle! Is Thailand in danger of becoming a third world business partner?
In early April 2020 media reported that the Thai government warned private hospitals not to send medical bills to COVID-19 patients or their families, saying their medical expenses will be paid for by the government.
The warning, posted on the Government House Facebook page, followed complaints that COVID-19 patients at private hospitals were being required to pay for treatment and services that in some cases topped 100,000 baht.
The government said private hospitals should keep records of medical treatment and services and send the bills to related agencies for reimbursement. The MOPH’s draft regulations on reimbursement were approved by the cabinet.
If patients have health insurance, however, they are being encouraged to use their policies first. The Social Security Fund for workers in the private sector, the welfare fund for state officials and the “gold card” universal fund would wholly or partially cover the cost of COVID-19 treatment based on the fund to which the patients belong.
People who are covered by the “gold card” scheme are eligible to receive treatment for COVID-19 free of charge effective April 2, 2020 according to an announcement in the Royal Gazette. The announcement says if patients seek treatment at private hospitals, reimbursement will be made in line with the MOPH regulations.
COVID-19 testing fees
When COVID-19 testing fees were published in the local press in March of this year, many people expressed shock at the exorbitant amounts charged by public and private hospitals.
Khasod English website reported on March 16 that Roongreung Kitpati, an advisor to the Ministry of Health, said those without symptoms or at-risk travel history should refrain from getting checkups, which could overcrowd hospitals and use up test kits.
“If you aren’t sick, please don’t get tests because it’s useless and wastes money. Most tests yield negative results. But if you are in an at-risk group, such as someone having contact with an infested person, please contact the Department hotline,” Mr Roongreung said.
Since March most hospitals have reduced prices for testing. Among 16 hospitals in the metropolitan Bangkok area contacted by The BigChilli at the end of September to ask the fees – see list below – only two charge foreigners more than Thais. This should elate those foreigners who always complain about 'double standards'. The wait for test results from these 16 hospitals varies from four hours to two days.
How complaints about medical fees are being treated
· In this exclusive report, we look at ways the government is curbing excessive charges for locals and foreigners
· Only two hospitals have dual pricing for COVID-19 tests
By MAXMILIAN WECHSLER
Healthcare is one of the world’s largest and fastest growing industries - and Thailand is very much part of it. Modern, well-equipped hospitals are accessible in Bangkok and all 76 provinces.
Sooner or later most of us enter the hospital system, and in Thailand it’s a lot easier to seek treatment in a private hospital than a government facility, especially for foreigners.
Even though it comes at a much higher cost, many expats and tourists still consider medical care here a bargain compared to their own countries. And despite some criticism, most are impressed with the quality of care they receive.
The Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) legitimately claims that Thailand has gained worldwide recognition for its excellent healthcare services. According to the 2019 edition of the prestigious US magazine CEOWORLD Health Care Index, which ranks 89 countries according to factors that contribute to overall health, Thailand has the sixth best healthcare system in the world. Taiwan occupied the top slot, followed by two other Asian nations, South Korea (second) and Japan (third), with Austria and Denmark rounding out the top five.
The Health Care Index is a statistical analysis of a country’s overall healthcare system that includes infrastructure, competence of health care professionals, availability of quality treatments and medicines and government commitment. The index also takes into consideration environmental and social factors in individual countries including access to clean water, sanitation, overall obesity rates, tobacco use and government readiness to enforce health measures, for example by imposing fines on people who violate restrictions on tobacco use.
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul hailed the CEOWORLD ranking, announced in August 2019, as confirmation that the determined efforts Thailand has made toward developing its healthcare sector have paid off. In September last year Minister Anutin said the government must not rest on its laurels, as mere rankings do not matter as much as how well the ministry performs its duty of maintaining public health. “It was a collective effort that got us here,” he added.
There is general agreement among patients that the accolades are well deserved, but on the home front it’s not all bouquets for Thailand’s hospitals and overall health care system. Locals often complain of waiting for hours at government hospitals when they have a health problem. The waiting period for further medical tests or surgery in non-emergency cases might be weeks up to a few months.
Expats complain they are charged more at government hospitals and some private hospitals, while others say they’ve been scheduled for unnecessary and costly procedures.
Former Patana International School student and mad keen ‘wakeskaster’ who inspired Thailand’s love of imported beers with HOBS on Thonglor, is now expanding his Bangkok business interests
I have two younger sisters, aged 37 and 20. The older sister lives in Wales and the younger in Chamonix, France.
My wife Ramona is from Romania. We met in Thailand and have been together for 18 years, married for nine. She’s known as the ‘Queen of Salsa’ in Asia, a dancer and choreographer based here who works around the world at all kinds of events, including top Indian weddings, she also does a lot of choreography work for tv commercials, music videos and movies.
What languages do you speak? Thai and English.
What’s keeping you in Thailand? I love the country, the food, the weather and the people. I can do most of the things that I love to do here. I have many hobbies. My most favorite being ‘wakeskating’ and Thailand is home to one of the best places in the world to do this (Thai Wake Park). It also helps that we can do this all year round.
I have grown up and lived in Thailand for 36 years so it is home for me and I am lucky to have many friends and family here.
First job: I worked for a logistics company specializing in domestic transportation for the auto industry. I then worked with family in jewelry.
Then? I met a Belgian guy who introduced me to Belgian beer, which I really liked. He was initially importing this type of beer just for himself, but we saw its potential for a wider audience and set up a company called ‘Knock on Wood’. We imported and distributed Belgian Beer to restaurant, bars, hotels and others in Thailand.
In 2006, we acquired a site on Thonglor 16 previously occupied by Bei Otto, and set up HOBS - House of Beers, a bar that specialized in imported Belgian craft beers. It was the first of its kind in Thailand. At one point we stocked 100 different Belgian beers with all kinds of tastes – sweet, bitter, chocolate flavored, fruity, bitter-sweet and loads more.
Hard work? I was there every day, talking to customers and telling them all about the beers we sold. It was important to educate people about Belgian beer so we could build the industry and sell more beer.
Apart from the beers, what else made it popular? We had a great location and we launched our beer garden that had more variety of beers available, a classier ambiance and more trendy than those set up by the local brewers in town. It also benefited from being in an upscale part of Bangkok. And it attracted all the local celebs!
HOBS was then taken over by a local company who was also importing Belgian Beer and then I went and set up BREW - Beers & Ciders in Thonglor 13 in Seen Space right beside Ashley Sutton’s ‘Clouds’ bar where we worked together to promote the new space.
Our bar focused on beers from around the world, starting off with 140 brands and ending up with over 500 different labels. It was a great time – we created a new vibe in Bangkok and were packed every night. It became one of the most popular beer bars in Asia and was responsible for opening up the market and industry.
Plans to build three 50-storey condos and two hotels on land adjacent to Ocean Marina on Jomtien Beach have been suspended because of the economic slowdown and lack of tourists caused by the Covid19 epidemic.
Owners of this huge beachside property, Charoen Pokphan (CP), have yet to indicate when work on the development is likely to begin.
CP is Thailand's largest private company and one of the world's largest conglomerates. It has substantial business interests in China.
Directly opposite the property is the entrance-exit to the recently opened Highway 7 extension from Chonburi to U Tapao international airport. This now fully open junction is expected to draw considerable additional traffic and business to the area’s main resorts, including Jomtien, Pattaya and Bang Saray.
Bangkok investors have been snapping up condo units located in the Ocean Marine compound. Meanwhile, local property prices are increasing in anticipation of a mini-boom.
U Tapao airport, a 30-minute drive to the south, is set to play a major role in the massive Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) project, which also features a high-speed rail link to Bangkok. CP is an investor in the rail project together with various Chinese business interests.
It is thought that the existing railway, which runs parallel to the beach in this part of the Eastern Seaboard, is not suitable for the new the high speed train project.
Despite our best efforts, life in the big city can get pretty complicated, trying to juggle work, social life, personal problems—not to mention the never-ending stream of stressful traffic. We can talk to friends and family, but their involvement might be a little too close to home…sometimes a professional opinion really helps to put things into perspective. Calling our concrete therapists from New Counseling Service (NCS) to the rescue for some solid advice!
Do you have a question for one of our counsellors? We will never print your real name, you can ask anything anonymously. Just send your problem to: email@example.com or message @ncsbangkok on IG, FB, or Line.
Whenever I go out with my friends, they often joke about OCD. For example, if a tile is out of place on the floor or their clothing is wrinkled, they’ll say “OMG, I’m so OCD!” and we all laugh. It’s a running joke and while I don’t really mind, what they don’t know is that I actually have OCD. Every day, I struggle with how many times to turn the lights on and off, I have trouble walking normally because of the compulsions in my mind telling me to avoid certain spots or to create specific patterns. This is a very real thing for me, but I’m taking medication and doing therapy to be able to seem ‘normal’ when I’m in public, at least for a few hours. I’m thinking about telling my friends that I have OCD, but I have no idea how to explain it to them or where they can find more detailed info about this disorder. I don’t know where to start. Can you help me? Thank you!
How the UN is helping to combat the changing tactics of the region's crime gangs
Interview with Jeremy Douglas, Regional Representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for Southeast Asia and the Pacific
By MAXMILIAN WECHSLER
• Changes in the drug market the past few years have impacted Thailand as organized crime groups have increased production and diversified into powerful and valuable drugs like crystal methamphetamine and ketamine.
• The expansion of the drug trade has meant a corresponding expansion of money laundering and other related crimes, leading to an explosion of the prison population.
• The region needs to ask itself why the drug trade continues to expand here, who is behind it or benefiting from it and how they use the region to expand it.
• Thailand is a logistics hub for the Mekong region and a lot of the drugs trafficked into the country are for transit to Malaysia or to places like Australia, New Zealand, Japan or Korea.
• There are a lot of aligned but different businesses that go hand-in-hand with the drug trade, for example casinos which are often in border areas and the trade in chemicals used to produce synthetic drugs.
Besides criminal justice and drug-related matters, his office is focused on non-traditional security threats and issues related to the rule of law and public health. Mr Douglas is also the UNODC liaison to China, Korea, Japan and Mongolia and to regional organisations including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS). He is based at the UNODC’s regional office at the UN building in Bangkok.