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Phuket Opinion: The Russian Conundrum

PHUKET: The report during the past week of the Thai Cabinet approving an extradition agreement with Russia sent keyboards aflutter with all sorts of comments, some of them near to outright racist, spurring deep incentive to take a beat and a deeper look at what people are seeing on the island. Alarmist reports bordering on inciting anti-Russian sentiment are not helping.

By The Phuket News

Sunday 19 March 2023, 09:00AM

People in Patong last month protest the Russian military’s invasion of Ukraine. Phuket for years has been a safe haven for people of all nationalities. Photo: Eakkapop Thongtub / file

People in Patong last month protest the Russian military’s invasion of Ukraine. Phuket for years has been a safe haven for people of all nationalities. Photo: Eakkapop Thongtub / file

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.

Laguna Phuket 2023

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.


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.

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prosmartantidumb | 19 March 2023 - 21:45:50

my family and me are moving out of phuket (yanui/rawai) after 5 years, because we see and hear only russians. Rude, loud, agressive, careless and unhygienic. If i want to live in russia, i would go to moscow. Now as Phuket is not Thailand anymore, but russian territory, we simply leave and make space for their new "quality tourist".
Many other rich families move out, too. Quality of lif...

Robinphuket | 19 March 2023 - 18:23:03

@pascale. It feels like it. Haha. 
My condo is now 50% Russian. The gym, cafes etc have many Russians. Of course i was exaggerating. My comment a little tongue in cheek. Just emphasising the change thats taken place.

Pascale | 19 March 2023 - 15:41:40

Chapeau PN.  One of the few "Opinions"you published where I fully agree with.
@Robinphuket   Where on Phuket do you live if you can hear only Russian language being spoken now? Next to the Russian consulate ? 

cheez | 19 March 2023 - 15:08:42

@ Fascinated:. Updated from Reuters on 17 March 2023 on lives affected include: approx.15,000 people missing; approx.14M people displaced.  Since the start of the war, independent media outlets have shut down or have left to operate from exile.  The uncertain future.

cheez | 19 March 2023 - 14:58:51

@ Fascinated: re your comments on "comparing the current situation to those fleeing Germany in the late '30s is ridiculous".   Rising turmoil, instability, hostilities, economic decline and 
persecution are just a few reasons that citizens flee their homeland.  Major escalation of the Russo-Ukrainian war resulted in tens of thousands of deaths on both sides.

SEC2 | 19 March 2023 - 13:18:13

Argentina is big right now for pregnant Russian Women:  Any person born in Argentine territory acquires Argentine nationality at birth. (same as US)  US was big for pregnant Chinese women before pandemic. That's why the borders....never mind I don't want to get political.  It's a beautiful Sunday.

Robinphuket | 19 March 2023 - 12:31:01

I used to hear many languages being spoken here. Now its just Russian. Everyone brings their culture with them but Russians are very noticeable by their often low levels of politeness and respect for the local Thai culture  (put a tshirt on when you go in the 7). I believe Phuket is going to lose many tourists and expats. Its becoming little Russia. Maybe Putin will annex it soon

christysweet | 19 March 2023 - 11:31:11

That's pure fluff re Russians giving birth in Thailand which does not  give citizneship to anyone other that those born of a Thai. Russinas are flocking to Miami however where USA Constitution recognizes birth as right to citizenship 

SEC2 | 19 March 2023 - 11:29:12

@JohnC. 49% Freehold. 51% Leasehold.  Technically condo could be 100% foreigner owned. 

Fascinated | 19 March 2023 - 10:25:50

Not sure if its true or just internet fluff but apparently pregnant Russian women are coming here to give birth so the children get Thai citizenship and the parents can then get residency as carers. Comparing the current situation to those fleeing Germany in the late '30s is ridiculous. Some ARE abusing the system. trust our serial whinger to twist his comment for another 'Thai bashing'...

JohnC | 19 March 2023 - 09:22:02

Correct me if I'm wrong but I thought according to Thai law only 49% of the units in a condominium project can legally be sold to foreigners. So how are they able to buy up to 90% of new condos? It appears once again Thai laws are 'flexible' when there is money to be made from foreign nationals..


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