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Hari’s idea: A call for all expats

PHUKET: A long-term Phuket expat has launched a simple initiative that may lay the groundwork for an expat association which can serve as an advisory or at least consultative body for local government officials looking to avoid blowback on implementing poor policies ‒ and even help officials effect positive change for the island.

By The Phuket News

Monday 21 June 2021, 06:34PM

Phuket will need a positive injection of ideas to help pull itself out of the pandemic-induced slump. Photo: PR Phuket

Phuket will need a positive injection of ideas to help pull itself out of the pandemic-induced slump. Photo: PR Phuket

Hari Bedi launched the initiative yesterday with a post on Facebook titled, “Preparing for the Post-Pandemic Era”.

“As Phuket emerges from the present pandemic-induced inertia, enormous dynamism is needed to prepare for the future. The belief that nothing ever happens and it’s all a waste of time should be shelved and an opportunity should be taken to stress that expats are an integral part of Phuket life and are ready and willing to contribute their share in building a better place for all of us and the visitors,” Hari wrote.

“An outpouring of ideas and an unprecedented level of people participation is needed as an antidote to the inaction and gloom of the pandemic era. In that spirit, listed below are ten ideas. 

Please reply to this post as soon as possible choosing five ideas that appeal to you most, writing down their numbers. You may also separately list down your own suggestions,” he added.

Hari’s 10 ideas were:

  1. Form an expat association which will own and operate a co-op store for imported produce and a maintenance services (handyman) co-op.
  2. Modernise and expand the immigration office
  3. Build a multi-story car park in Phuket Town
  4. Remove 90-day notification to Immigration
  5. Totally reform the work permit system
  6. Allow expats to work as musicians, artists, teachers, writers and authors
  7. Build a history/ culture museum
  8. Build two parks ‒ one in the South and the other in the North.
  9. Build a theatre for performing arts.
  10. Build a modern art gallery

The responses have already been largely positive.

Wolfgang Meusburger, also a long-term Phuket expat, called for the following:

  1. Affordable public transport / a mixture of short term solutions eg samlor buses/ trucks/ ac electric buses shuttling around/ bs long term plan of tram.
  2. Create a single authority managing all beaches/ cleaning/ licensing of business/ building shower toilet facilities/ zoning for water sport swimming/ awards /
  3. New waste management/ punish all polluters revoke business licenses for offenders/ capex spending [capital expenditure] for wastewater management in all tambons/
  4. Yearly event calendar a combination of top class music / ASEAN Thai arts/ street food / pride / bike week

Saimohan Pahwa noted, “I think if the thai government allowed people seeking a resident permit to work - it would change the whole equation…”

Eddie Sawiris recommended: “1 Form expat association. 2 remove 90 days checkin. 3 build history/culture centre. 4 build two botanical parks. 5 modernise/expand immigration office.”

Well-known long-term expat Grenville Fordham agreed with a combination of suggestions, as follows:

Agree with Hari

  1. Form expat association, to be accepted by local government as an advisory/consultative body (not to operate business ventures in competition with local entrepreneurs or tradesmen)
  2. Build a multi-story car park in Phuket Town
  3. Remove 90-day notification to Immigration
  4. Build a theatre for performing arts

Agree with Wolfgang

  1. Affordable public transport etc
  2. Create a single authority managing all beaches etc
  3. New waste management etc

Adding his own suggestions, Grenville added:

From me

  1. Introduce longer term (2-, 3- or 5-year) visa and work permit for expats with, say, 10 years of uninterrupted ’tenure’.
  2. Long term solution for perennial water shortage - capex needs to be used wisely.

Not all responses targeted overall areas long known in need of obvious improvement.

Thai Residential

As an observer, Vitaliy Tsoy noted, “Regarding your suggestions, it is very difficult for me to recommend something, because I live in Hua Hin. On the issue of visa regulations, this is the prerogative of the legislature. The laws of any country, first of all, should protect the interests of the local population, and we are guests, and if we do not like any laws, then it is better for us to choose another country to live. This is my subjective opinion, I hope I did not offend anyone with my words.”

The call for ideas followed Hari’s post on Saturday titled, “The Time Has Come”.

“It’s about time for Phuket to acknowledge the contribution of expatriates in making it one of the world’s top holiday destinations. In the last twenty years this small island has been transformed from a sleepy little place to a well-developed cosmopolitan resort. Of course, its natural setting, beautiful beaches and friendly people have always been its greatest asset. But it’s the high standard of its hotels, a wide variety of restaurants, marvellous marinas, and entertainment venues of Patong  that have helped to make it a magnet for the tourists,” he wrote.

“In all this development, the role of the expatriates has been crucial. But little has been said or done by way of public recognition. On the contrary, their image freely gets confused by some disgruntled person such as the one who once mentioned on Facebook that since he paid his taxes and spent all his earnings right here, Phuket should be grateful to him. The image is also sometimes sullied by an unhappy experience with the bureaucracy of an individual among the large retired community. These are a very small minority  and there is overwhelming evidence on the positive side to counteract it. But sadly, no sustained effort has been made,” he added.

“The various business organisations with membership from different nationalities do make occasional pronouncements affecting them, but on the whole not much is done to publicise their positive contribution to Phuket’s economy. Perhaps, this reluctance emanates from the fact that the expat community has not been made to feel really welcome over the years. The time has come to show some appreciation to them – both business people and retired folks ‒ by making their lives a little easier by relaxing cumbersome rules and regulations.

“There is no reason why the process of getting a work permit for employees should be so difficult. Why not let retirees work and contribute their  life-long experience in some vitally needed areas? Above all, removing the requirement of 90-day notification to Immigration could send a real positive signal in transforming the image of restrictive treatment to one of a happy, trusting, positive relationship with Thai society,” he concluded.

Hari is an old time resident of Phuket. He was among the first two or three people who built a house in Laguna, which helped to start the residential trend in the resort. 

He also feels that the expat community is making  an extremely valuable contribution to the development of Phuket as a cosmopolitan and world-recognised resort. “They can be most helpful in suggesting ideas for future development as they bring experience from all corners of the world,” he told The Phuket News.

“That’s the reason I wrote that post on Facebook to collect their ideas,” he added.

“I have spent the past 50 years of my life in three places ‒ Singapore, Hong Kong and Phuket ‒ and have seen them develop in their own different ways. Singapore became a garden city, Hong Kong became a concrete jungle and Phuket is still on the crossroads to decide which way it would like to go,” Hari pointed out.

“Judging from some of the suggestions, it seems that many people would like Phuket to offer at least some cultural experience in addition to the current leisure and entertainment opportunities. That’s why they have suggested development of a museum, an art gallery and a theatre.

“They would also like some of the cumbersome requirements to be changed or abolished, such as the 90-day reporting to Immigration and the severe restriction upon how they can use their time here more productively. At present a person who is retired here cannot even publish a book on harmless subjects such as ‘Travel and Social Etiquette’.

“These infringements do a great harm to the image of Phuket, otherwise recognised as a beautiful, fun-loving, happy and a free place to live in or visit,” Hari adds.

All suggestions for Hari’s call for ideas can be posted on Hari’s facebook page ‒ click here.

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Christy Sweet | 24 June 2021 - 23:49:51

I  recall Pattaya Beach in 1968 when it was a village with a few houses US military service  members rented for holidays away from Bangkok. It was foreigners that made it an economic engine for Thailand. Hari's idea has merit.

Xi_Virus | 24 June 2021 - 19:18:26

No doubt that Hari is coming from a democratic nation but I believe some guys up there in the government are laughing loud right now on "Hari's idea". A bunch of farang coming to my country and decide for me how to run my country, hah?

Hari: you are in wrong place wrong time dear. Don't cuase more issues for expats else otherwise "They" will squeeze harder.

Christy Sweet | 22 June 2021 - 12:35:06

Thank you Hari, for doing SOMETHING!! I've often mused - buy Phuket and make it into free nation of sorts. Every tree I see cut down  to widen a road for taxis to drive faster, or pile of garbage from lazy residents makes me so angry. Every official who tries to extort me is disgusting.   

Pascale | 22 June 2021 - 11:05:51

Hahaha !What a dreamer ! Does Hari send a wish list to Santa Clause every year too ? Good luck with establishing that expat association. I vote for K. being president of that association.Lol

Sir Burr | 22 June 2021 - 07:44:56

The triumph of hope over reality and a complete misunderstanding of the mind set of Thai officialdom.


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