The extradition agreement is not in dispute, and was clearly included in the minutes of the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday (see here).
However, despite several extensive searches The Phuket News has not been able to confirm through any official reports the comments attributed to government spokesperson Rachada Dhnadirek in announcing the news. All subsequent reports, including by Europa Press and MSN News, have all been sourced to the one story, by The Nation (see here). There has not been any reports of the extradition agreement by state news agencies.
Of course, extradition agreements are common between countries, but Ms Rachada’s explanation – if accurately reported – that the pact does not require the approval of the Parliament since it “does not affect Thailand’s territory, economy, society or trade and investment’” is utter rubbish, and anyone living on Phuket can tell you that. The number of Russians in Phuket is already having an economic effect and affecting the social fabric in certain areas on the island.
Giving just one example, rental prices in areas preferred by Russians in Phuket, such as Bang Tao and other areas in Cherng Talay, have risen by as much as 300%. That alone has caused much angst among local expats, but it does deserve closer observation, coupled with a look at the much-reported fact that Russians have bought 40% of all condos sold in Phuket in the past year.
First, looking to the source, the number of Russian arrivals in Phuket are being reported as if they are record numbers never seen before, all attributed to the so-called “draft dodgers” looking to escape being called up to serve on the frontlines in Ukraine. This understanding is so convoluted it beggars belief.
The most common figure reported to highlight the number of Russians arriving in Phuket is that from Nov 1, 2022 to Jan 21, 2023, more than 233,000 Russians arrived on the island. Compared with other nationalities and any of the past three years, this is a large number. But in 2019, before COVID hit, more than 700,000 Russians visited Phuket – meaning that the “alarming” high number of Russians currently coming to Phuket is actually on pace with that rate.
Another consideration not even mentioned in recent reports marking Russian arrival numbers is that the months selected to highlight are the peak period of the whole year for Russians to come to Thailand. As Phuket Immigration has started reporting, the daily number of Russian is already falling.
Of course there are those fleeing being drafted into the Russian military among those coming to Phuket, but their number is a far cry from being the majority of them.
As for the “alarming” number condos in Phuket being bought by Russians, again, this is no different from the pre-COVID period, when Chinese and Russians together were the two main buyers of all condos being sold in Phuket, when 90% of new condos were being bought by foreigners.
The excellent report by Knight Frank earlier this month also helped to set the record straight by presenting, with actual statistics, just how few condos were sold in the past year, again, especially when compared with the huge volume sold in 2019.
Considering the reaction among many local residents to the “40%” reports, it will be very interesting to see their response when the Chinese start return to buy Phuket condos in force.
ON THE GROUND
What is causing the angst against Russians amongst local expats is the rate of change and extent of the impact in their lives. This is what makes Ms Rachada’s claim that the extradition pact “does not affect Thailand’s territory, economy, society or trade and investment” utter rubbish. The relatively sudden arrival of a large number of Russians coming to Phuket has changed the face, and nature, of several key areas on the island. And this is affecting Phuket’s attractiveness to other nationalities. People do not come to Thailand to be among a single nationality from somewhere else.
Without the Russian military’s invasion of Ukraine, over time much of this impact of the Russian arrivals would have been diluted and easily dismissed as inevitable. Older expats on the island will remember a time when foreigners of other nationalities created their own ‘enclaves’, with Scandinavians in Kata-Karon, Germans in Rawai, French in Patong, South Koreans in Wichit and Japanese in Kamala. It takes time for foreigners to assimilate and create new lives in a new home, and now these areas are no longer considered nationality-specific. Likewise with the Russians, those who choose to stay will also take time to become integrated members of our island community as their ‘enclave’ dilutes and number is spread across wider areas of the island.
As for the Russian-speaking “opportunists” who are working to specifically serve the new arrivals, in property or any other services, if they are working illegally the authorities need to slap them down as quickly as possible just like they have done with any other foreigners before them.
Of all the anti-Russian comments blasted across social media channels this past week the one that bites the hardest is the use of the term “draft dodger” as if it were a slur. How these people would not be welcomed here just does not make sense. Surely it is understood that if a 22- to 35-year-old Russian male is choosing to be here in Phuket, that makes it impossible for him to be pulling a trigger in Ukraine.
Add to this a report The Phuket News received this week of a foreigner having great difficulty enrolling his child at an international school due to a large influx of Russian children into the schools on the island. One cannot attribute any blame to Russian parents who have moved their whole families to Phuket, just like so many other families from around the world. Again, it is a problem of too many too quickly. Phuket has been struggling to deal with its recovery of tourism, nevermind a large influx of foreign residents.
These two examples alone highlight certain Russians who have made a decision about the circumstances in their home country. If they want to come to Phuket, they should be welcomed – just like families and other people fleeing Germany in the years the Nazi Party rose to power. What needs urgent attention is just how many new residents Phuket – and the surrounding area – can support, and how to achieve that.
prosmartantidumb | 19 March 2023 - 21:45:50