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Laughs and sadness — The life of Australian consular officials in Thailand

THE man came to the Australian Embassy with a hat in hand asking for taxpayer support to pay for a lady of the night — fortunately, the request was declined.

But it is just one of the many bizarre, and often serious requests our consular officials contend with every day.

Maybe you heard the one about the woman who contacted the Australian embassy in Thailand asking “do you know where Marjorie is?”

Or the family worried their Dad had gone missing but didn’t have a contact for him in Bangkok, and helpfully suggested officials look in “any sports bar showing AFL”.

Perhaps the story about the chap asking them to ring him a taxi? Or the bloke wondering if they could they pop down to the optometrist to see if his glasses were ready?

As First Secretary and Consul in the Australian Embassy in Thailand, Anita Downey has heard all these and many more.

In a speech to an Australian Society of Travel Writers conference in Bangkok last month, Ms Downey had the audience roaring with laughter as she reflected on life in the consular corp.

But it wasn’t just jokes as she outlined the value of travel insurance.

At any one time, the embassy in Thailand is handling 110 consular cases — and the workload has been rising by about five per cent a year.

Ms Downey noted the Federal Government’s website is a great resource and 400,000 people looked at the Thailand section last year.

But, wanderlusters only spent an average of two minutes at a time on the site.

“A lot of people don’t understand what we do,” Ms Downey said.

“Recent questions include the email from a woman asking ‘can you check where Marjorie is’ — that was it, Marjorie. The woman was worried because she had not heard from her.

“There was the prisoner who wanted Australian food because he didn’t like Thai food.

“We had a guy the other day wanting us to call a taxi for him — he had lived in Thailand for six years.

“One said ‘My hotel is noisy, can you please call them and complain’.

“There was the gentleman who had ordered glasses online and they had not arrived so could we pop out to the glasses shop and see how that was going for him.”

But for Ms Downey, there was one story that stood above the rest.

“My personal favourite was a gentleman who came in to visit us and he had a lady friend with him and they had spent the previous night together but he had run out of money so could we pay her on his behalf? I’m sure as Australian taxpayers you will be pleased to learn the answer was ‘no’. He had to make his own arrangements.”

Anecdotes aside, Ms Downey outlined the serious work consular officials do, and how Australians can save themselves heartache with a bit of common sense.

As well as visiting the 16 Australian prisoners now in Thai jails, last year consular officials dealt with 200 hospitalisations, 74 missing persons cases, 100 arrests and 201 deaths.

She stressed proper travel insurance — which covers pre-existing conditions and is not voided by alcohol, drugs, or risky behaviour such as riding a motorbike without a helmet — is essential.

“We spend a lot of our time trying to help families, explaining to them they need to pay for hospital care if they don’t have travel insurance — and a lot of our clients have no money,” she said.

“Our main clientele is the 65 to 75 year olds. A typical client in that category would be an Australian man who has come over here, found a friend, decided to stay, as it is obviously a lot lower cost to live here.

“I’m sure it is a fantastic lifestyle except when you get sick. And don’t have insurance and don’t have money.

“So you ring up the Australian Embassy expecting that we will pay for it and we don’t. We have never paid for someone’s hospital bill because can you imagine if we did it for one …

“So we don’t pay hospital bills and that becomes very difficult, so then we talk to the families and see if they will pay.”

Ms Downey said it is common to track down a family back in Australia to tell them their father is sick, only to be told the kids have not spoken to him in decades — so he is on his own.

“If you can’t pay you get basic care — if you have travel insurance you’ll get a fantastic level of care. In the intensive care unit in some of these hospitals you are looking at close to $10,000 a night,” she said.

Motorbike accidents where Australians ride without a licence and helmet are common, but this is a main reason — along with alcohol and drugs — travel insurance companies will not pay out on policies.

“We had a guy in Nepal on a bike hit by car, but he had a helmet and luckily had travel insurance — he was medevaced in Nepal by helicopter which cost $US5000 ($7000), had massive injuries so was medevaced to Bangkok which cost $US60,000, he spent three weeks in ICU in one of Bangkok’s best hospitals which cost $US140,000 then was stable enough to be transferred to Australia which cost $US120,000,” Ms Downey said.

“He is doing remarkably well but if he had not had travel insurance he would probably have stayed in hospital in Nepal.

“Imagine getting a call to say your daughter, son, brother, parent has been in an accident and needs to be medevaced and taken to a really good hospital and it is going to cost $30,000 and you need to pay it in the next 24 hours.

“If you don’t have insurance that’s what you are looking at — that’s reality.”

Bottom line?

As insurers like to say, if you can’t afford travel insurance you can’t afford to travel — but make sure it is the right insurance and you don’t make it void with risky behaviour.
Health Care / 71 Killed as Dengue Deaths Spike
« Last post by Newsy on Today at 12:29:47 AM »

71 Killed as Dengue Deaths Spike

Dengue deaths among Thais are up over 30 percent from last year, the health ministry said Sunday.

Low awareness about the disease was blamed by one official for the rise in deaths, but infections have also spiked by over 50 percent since January compared to the same period in 2017.

Jedsada Chokdamrongsuk, permanent health secretary, said the increased mortality was partly due to people only seeking medical attention after their symptoms become severe.

People also self-prescribe medication before seeing a doctor or do not strictly follow the treatment schedule, he added. Those who have already suffered congenital diseases are also more likely to die from dengue if they don’t go to a hospital in the early stage of the infection.

The total number of infections so far this year has reached 57,129 people, 71 of whom have died.

He added that more adults have died from dengue than children, although the official statistics indicate children 5 to 14 are most likely to take ill.

Once considered a rural disease, the mosquito-borne virus has become increasingly endemic to urban areas.

Most cases this year are in the central region. Nonthaburi province has the highest death toll with six people killed, while five people have died in Bangkok since January.

Dengue high season runs June to August, as heavy rain feeds pools of stagnant water where mosquitoes breed.

Almost 40,000 people were infected with dengue during that period this year, which is about 62 percent increase from the year earlier.
Isaan News / Weerasak: Buri Ram ready for the big day
« Last post by Newsy on Today at 12:27:36 AM »

Weerasak: Buri Ram ready for the big day

Thailand is ready to stage its first MotoGP race in Buri Ram next week, organisers said on Monday.

The inaugural PTT Thailand Grand Prix will be held at Chang International Circuit in the northeastern province from Oct 5-7.

Tourism and Sports Minister Weerasak Kowsurat told a press conference that more than 100,000 tourists are expected to visit the country and the province during the event.

"We are ready to take care of participants, fans and Thai and foreign tourists who will visit Buri Ram,'' he said.

"The event is expected to generate billions of baht."

He claimed the event will be watched on TV by some 800 million people worldwide.

"This is an important step for Thailand to show it can host a world-class sporting event," Weerasak said.

Thailand has secured the rights to stage the MotoGP for three years.

Ruj Saeng-udom, deputy governor of the Sports Authority of Thailand, said the SAT, as the main organiser, will do its best to make the event a success.

"This is an opportunity for our country to earn global recognition. The Thailand Grand Prix will put the country on the global motorsport map. It will also help promote Thailand's tourism and economy and make the country a world-class sports destination," he said.

Buri Ram governor Anusorn Kaewkangwan said: "We have prepared everything for the convenience of a large number of visitors who will flock the province."

Tanaisiri Chanvitayarom, managing director of Buri Ram International Circuit Co which owns Chang International Circuit, said the company has been working hard with parties concerned to ensure that every thing is in top condition during the race week.

During the event, there will also be several activities including a Muay Thai Expo featuring legendary fighters Samart Payak-aroon and Somluck Kamsing, and concerts by Waan Thanakrit, Atom Chanakant, Getsunova and BNK48.

Energy & Environment / Northeast faces drought as dam levels low
« Last post by Newsy on Today at 12:24:08 AM »

Northeast faces drought, as dam levels low

 SOME PARTS of the Northeast and Central regions are expected to face severe drought due to near-empty reservoirs and a strong dry season caused by the El Nino effect.

Even though three provinces are still inundated, and the dry season has yet to begin, the National Water Resources (ONWR) yesterday raised an alarm about emerging drought risks. The Northeast faces the greatest risk, as Ubonrat Dam, one of the major dams of the region, is only 11 per cent full. The Northeast has 21 of the country’s 36 dams that are at less than 30 per cent of their available capacity.

Moreover, the Meteorological Department and Hydro and Agro Informatics Institute (HAII) also caution that these dams only have some 30 days to collect water from the seasonal rainfall until the rainy season resumes in May 2019.

The Meteorological Depart-ment has also warned that the development of El Nino in the Pacific Ocean in the beginning of 2019 will contribute to an even drier than normal climate in Southeast Asia and Western Pacific, which will further intensify the severity of the coming drought.

 He said the list of these reservoirs and their assessed water situation would be passed on to the Royal Rainmaking and Agricultural Aviation Depart-ment, so they can run rainmaking missions to top up the dams.

Information from Royal Irrigation Department’s (RID) Smart Water Operation Centre put water levels in 143 reservoirs at less than 60 per cent of capacity. Of those, 132 are medium-sized reservoirs, with most located in the lower part of the Northeast and to the west of the Chao Phraya River Basin.

Those regions match up with the highly unusual precipitation patterns of this year, in which much of the country, especially upper Northeast and East have received much larger volumes of rain, which contributed to widespread floods in 23 provinces.

The amount of precipitation in lower Northeast and western part of the Central Plain was significantly lower than average, which caused water scarcity in those areas well before the rainy season has ended.

HAII has calculated a deficit of some 799 million cubic metres of water to meet demand in the Chao Phraya River Basin during the dry season. The total water demand for this region until the next rainy season is estimated at around 12 billion cubic metres, while there are only 11.21 billion cubic metres of water reserves in the four main dams of the watershed.
General Discussions / Re: Tripadvisor - I'll give this one a miss
« Last post by thaiga on Yesterday at 09:18:31 PM »
The Giant

The Giant
The Giant is one of the most unusual restaurants in Thailand. It is located in the top of a gigantic tree! The Giant is a great place to enjoy the atmosphere of one of Thailand’s many unusual dining spots. The only problem being is to access this unique restaurant in Chang Mai is across an elevated bamboo rope bridge, great views while being shaded by the trees. Not what you call a restaurant more of a experience. they serve coffee, cakes, and a few tasty dishes, or you can just sit and sip. this unusual restaurant also features a simple zip-line to a nearby tree platform. It costs THB 200 for a zip-line trip. not for the faint hearted. Interesting but a bit of a way from us guys in Korat but lets you know whats around. a 90-minute drive from the city of Chiang Mai, while heading towards the east in the district of Mae On, will lead you to a small village in the middle of the jungle, called Pok Village. think i'll just view the vid.

Baan Pok Village Huai Kaew Subdistrict, Mae On, Thailand Tel: +66(0)53317677 +66(0)7762946
reservations advised on weekends. Best visited between 11 am and 3 pm.

Run out of most dishes
Took 3 attempts to order as they had run out of what we wanted. Staff all lounging around playing on their phones. Cakes tasted very cheap despite being reasonably expensive. Did not feel clean.

nice panorama
The road to the Coffee was more spektakular and wonderful, than the Coffee. At the road you can see many of Ricefields, nice little villages and coffeebars. The panorama with the mountains was beautiful, the personal dont speak english.

Coffee house in a giant tree house on a peak with views
Go here for the beautiful location, the view down the valley and the impressive treehouse structure into which this coffee shop is built. We didn't have anything to eat or drink so can't comment on the quality. The road was quite rough and winding to get there and it was raining so kind of messy the day we went there.

more reviews:
Scams & Crime / Re: All three suspects charged with murder of Brit & Thai wife
« Last post by thaiga on Yesterday at 08:55:18 PM »
All three suspects charged with murder of Brit, Thai wife

Three men, including the suspected mastermind, involved in the murder of a British retiree and his Thai wife in this northern province have been charged with premeditated murder. The suspects include the wife’s elder brother.

They admitted to having colluded in the killing of Alan Hogg, the 64-year-old retiree, and his wife Nod Suddaen, 61, at the couple’s home in Muang district.

The duo implicated  Nod’s elder brother, in the double murder. Mr W was caught today, said Pol Lt Gen Poonsap Prasertsak, commander of Provincial Police Region 5, during a media conference on Tuesday.

The three suspects have been charged with colluding in the premeditated murder.

Police found the bodies of the couple Tuesday morning after they confessed to the murder and claimed the wife's elder brother paid them 50,000 baht to kill them. The couple went missing on Sept 18.

Their bodies were found buried two metres deep near a creek running through their large property in Muang district after the excavation of one metre deep on the previous day came up with nothing, said Pol Lt Gen Poonsap.

Relatives of the couple identified the bodies, which were later sent to Phrae Hospital for post-mortem examinations.

Police further interrogated Mr P and Mr K. Mr  P confessed he had used a shotgun to shoot Mr Hogg in the chest while the victim was going to feed his ducks. The Briton died on the spot.

The two suspects accused Mr W of colluding in killing his younger sister. Mr K had reportedly held the woman while Mr W allegedly hit her head with a wrench he took from her garage until she died.

The three suspects then took the bodies to their land plot near the creek. They then used a backhoe Mr Hogg used for farming to dig a hole and bury them.

After that, Mr w drove the two other suspects to Wang Chin district in the same province and gave them 50,000 baht. Mr W then returned to Muang district to take the couple’s Ford pickup truck for sale, said Pol Lt Gen Poonsap.

During the interrogation, all but Mr W confessed to the charges, said Pol Lt Gen Poonsap.

According to the police, Mr W had persuaded his younger sister and her husband to live in Thailand so she could stay close to relatives. The couple had initially planned to live in Spain. But after that, he and the couple had frequently quarrelled and Nod often sided with her husband, antagonising her brother.

He denied killing them but police suspected the growing resentment might have been the motive.

full article
Bodies of murdered Phrae couple found, 3 men confess

Police have found the bodies of a British millionaire and his Thai wife after three men confessed to their murder and claimed her elder brother paid them 50,000 baht to kill them.

Police detained the trio in Wang Chin district on Monday. After hours of intense interrogation, they admitted to having colluded in killing Alan Hogg, a 64-year-old retiree, and his wife Nod Suddaen, 61, at the couple’s home in Muang district.

The suspects, whose names were not released, implicated, Ms Nod's brother, in the double murder, claiming he paid them 50,000 baht to do it,

They first shot dead Hogg, in front of a duck pen on the property, and then used a hammer to beat Nod, 61 to death in front of the garage

They said he had taken the bodies away to bury in the victims’ garden.

Their bodies were found buried beside a creek running through their large property in Muang district on Tuesday, according to media reports.

They were found lying next to each other in a hole about two metres deep.

Police and rescue workers had previously dug up the spot, where a small backhoe was found parked next to freshly turned soil, but found nothing.

On Tuesday, they dug deeper. Two pairs of shoes were found before the bodies were uncovered.

The couple had been together for over 10 years and they had bought more than 100 rai of land in tambon Chor Hae, which they farmed. They had built a large, well-appointed house

They were reported missing from their house in Muang district last Thursday by a friend who  said they had not replied to messages or phone calls since Tuesday, when they were supposed to have met up in Chiang Mai.

Investigators found out their white pickup truck was also missing.

Police later arrested Mr W after CCTV footage showed him entering the couple’s home and driving away in the pickup.

mr. w denied any involvement in their disappearance. He was charged with theft of the vehicle and released after relatives posted bail of 100,000 baht.

Police were again searching for him.

Earlier on Monday, Pol Maj Gen Poonsap Prasertsak, chief of Provincial Police Region 6, said the investigation had progressed after the missing pickup truck was found in Ayutthaya.  Everything would be clear in a few days, he added.

Pol Maj Gen Sanpat Prabpudsa, chief of Phrae police, said the truck was impounded in Ayutthaya on Sunday, and returned to Phra That Hor Chor Hae police station, near the couple's home, for forensic examination.

Investigators learned the truck had been bought from a Thai couple by a Lao man. The sellers and buyer agreed to meet in Sri Samrong district in Sukhothai to close the deal on Friday.

The Lao man then drove it to Ayutthaya on business. When he learned from media reports that police were looking for the vehicle he turned it over to police on Sunday, Pol Maj Gen Sanpat said.

He and the two sellers were then taken to Phra That Chor Hae police station, near the missing couple's home in Phrae, for interrogation.
Scams & Crime / Re: Bodies found British man and his Thai wife
« Last post by thaiga on Yesterday at 04:00:53 PM »
Bodies found British man and his Thai wife

It has been reported by That the missing two people, a Brit and his Thai wife
their bodies have been found in the garden of their home. the report states, police confirmed they had found the bodies of the missing couple, by using excavation equipment, they were able to dig deeper than had been previously possible and discovered the bodies.

This is a developing news story. More information as we get it.
Expat News / Re: Does being an expat keep you younger in spirit and ambition?
« Last post by thaiga on Yesterday at 03:02:26 PM »
That video has just knocked on about every expats ego thanks. at the moment i'm hanging pics of myself on the bedroom wall. hope i dont have nightmares :rclxs0
All expats have nightmares one way or another, lack of research and planning, some people get knocked off their feet once in a while while chasing the so called expat dream. try to ignore the little things or little people that try to wear you down along the way, like smart remarks on a forum, they are loosers, trying to look flash in front of their buddies, they are living the same life as back home, they missed the finding of a dream, their attitude towards others shows their unhappiness. relocating to a new country is bigger than you think, you must prepare yourself for the worst. i do feel for the expats who have been through hell and had to return home, then being worse off than before they left. The big move doesn't really change the daily needs as in an income, although you can eat and live cheaper here, unless you want to carry on eating the western food,

The new relaxed what you hoped for stress free life, is there, if you let it be, living here as to on holiday is so different, its now the real thing, your cultural background, personality, need to change to escape the ones that you left behind. some guys try to live the same as back home, thats impossible, when changing countries your life has to change as well. not easy for some that have their pension frozen, where you could find it difficult making ends meet, seems everything is against some expats, the exchange rate, the brexit, and your own government, plus the price of things here are gradually creeping up.

hey the girls are still gorgeous though  ;)
Three men confess to murder of missing couple in Phrae

 Three men have confessed to the murder of a missing British millionaire and his Thai wife, and told police they were hired by the woman’s elder brother to kill the couple.

Police detained the trio in Wang Chin district on Monday. After hours of intense interrogation, they admitted to having colluded in killing Alan Hogg, a 64-year-old retiree, and his wife Nod Suddaen, 61, at the couple’s home in Muang district, according to Thai media reports.

The suspects, whose names were not released, implicated, Mr Hogg’s brother-in-law, in the double murder, claiming he paid them 50,000 baht to do it,

They first shot dead Mr Hogg, in front of a duck pen on the property, and then used a hammer to beat Ms Nod, 61 to death in front of the garage

They claimed he had taken the bodies away to bury in the victims’ garden, the reports said.

The couple were reported missing from their house in Muang district last Thursday by a friend who  said they had not replied to messages or phone calls since Tuesday, when they were supposed to have met up in Chiang Mai.

full story
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