Thailand Weekly Vol. 13

Thailand news and stories delivered free to your inbox every Sunday 🇹🇭

Well, Bangkok is certainly firing on all cylinders again. I went out this past weekend and couldn’t believe how busy the city was. Restaurants were packed, finding a cab was difficult, and just about everything seemed to be open well past midnight. Lots of you have written us mentioning that you’ve officially booked your next trip to Thailand and that the excitement is starting to kick in! Hopefully we’ll see you soon!

No More Masks?

Thailand’s Public Health Ministry has announced that the mask mandate will likely be removed in certain parts of the country starting mid-June. Permanent Secretary, Dr. Kiattiphum Wongrajit said that the COVID situation is improving much faster than expected and the pandemic will likely be downgraded to endemic status as originally mapped out.

With this, the Health Ministry plans to remove the mask mandate across 31 provinces which include those designated as green zones and blue zones. Some of the more popular provinces included as part of these special areas are Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chonburi, and Phuket. You can find the full zoning designations here.

Our Take

You know, the whole mask-wearing component of COVID has been one of the most divisive topics around the world over the past few years. Particularly in places like the US and Europe. There was a lot of pushback and frustration when it came to mask-wearing and its efficacy. Thai society had a totally different take on this and stepped up to the plate without hesitation. You see people wearing masks everywhere here. Inside. Outside. At the Gym. On the Beach. In a Restaurant. It doesn’t matter… in just about every corner of the country, you’ll see 95% of Thais wearing a mask. Throughout the thick of the pandemic, it was obviously an amazing difference maker in saving lives and keeping people out of the hospital. Coming together as a society like that and all pulling the rope in the same direction is super cool.

Having said that… we’re now at a point where most people have been fully vaccinated with a booster shot, so it’s starting to feel a bit strange wearing a mask in an outdoor park or on a motorbike when it’s upwards of 40 degrees out. New cases are at their lowest in 6-months, so I love the fact that the health ministry is making a move to remove these mask mandates. It’s the perfect time to address this as Thailand prepares for what will be a likely be a MASSIVE influx of travellers arriving in July.

Thailand Aims To Make Roads Much Safer

PM Prayut Chan-o-cha announced this past Wednesday that the government is aiming to cut the number of road deaths by almost two thirds in the next 5 years.

Thailand has some of the most dangerous roads in the world with an average of two fatalities every single hour. The country has the ninth highest road death rate with 32.7 per 100,000 people, which is about 3x higher than the US and 10x higher than many places in Europe. Motorcycle drivers and riders made up 74% of the 17,831 road fatalities that took place in 2020.

Thailand will look to implement components of Sweden’s ‘Vision Zero’ strategy that originally rolled out back in the 1990’s. This is a framework that aims to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries while providing safe, healthy and equitable mobility for all.

Our Take

If the Government is able to to implement the right changes to make Thai roads safer and ultimately reduce road deaths by over 65 percent in the next five years, it will probably be one of the greatest initiatives that any country has ever taken to protect the lives of its people.

The proof is in the pudding. You can see from the stats above that the number of road fatalities here are at a point where the issue is now an epidemic in its own right. I’ll be very curious to see what changes are made. I suspect that there won’t be many modifications to the actual rules of the road, but instead just stricter enforcement on what is currently in place. One example of this is the recent crackdown of motorbikes driving on sidewalks. When I first moved here, I remember seeing this all the time, but after a highly publicized accident, the crackdown began. I rarely see it these days.

I have faith that with the right changes, they’ll be able to significantly reduce the number of road deaths. I do think that the first step should come in the form of helmet enforcement. Perhaps there could even be an initiative where Thais can enrol in some sort of program where they’re granted a credit to purchase a helmet. It’s a weird world we live in when you see a small motorbike with 4 people on it weaving through Bangkok traffic and lane-splitting with no helmets in sight. That’s a recipe for disaster that is so easily avoidable. Especially in a place where 74% of the road deaths come from those on motorbikes.

Thailand Travel Tip

Thailand is an easy place to explore at surface level. The tourist areas are well-defined, the locals are friendly, and things are relatively straightforward. Having said that, as soon as you want to start pulling back the hundreds of layers that make this country extra special, it can get difficult. Local restaurants, activities, attractions, nightlife, etc. can be tough to navigate. Bangkok’s back-alley noodle shops. Koh Samui’s secret beaches. Chiang Mai’s speakeasy bars. They’re all special places, but can be almost impossible to find unless you have local friends. That’s why we created the Teenee App. It’s a handpicked list of the best things Thailand has to offer, overlaid on an easy-to-navigate map interface. Every spot is recommended by Thais or Expats that actually live here. With the ability to search, filter, and enjoy bite-sized videos across over 350 recommendations, it’s like having a local friend in your pocket at all times. Click hereto check it out.

Saudi Partnership To Inject Billions Into Thai Economy

Thailand is set to host a delegation from Saudi Arabia this coming July which could result in billions of dollars being injected into the Kingdom’s economy. This past January, the two countries agreed to renew diplomatic relations after three decades. You can read more about why relations were axed between the two countries over 30 years ago in this previous version of Thailand Weekly.

Thailand’s Board of Trade Chairman Sanan Angubolkul said that “this is a good opportunity to build mutual confidence in trade and investment. Thailand has the potential to become a hub in ASEAN for Saudi Arabian trade and investment. The Board of Trade is confident that Thailand is well prepared to serve as ASEAN’s hub after recent roadshows.”

Trade between both countries is estimated to reach tens of billions of baht this year, and it’s reported that the Saudis are keen to learn from Thai expertise in tourism and wellness, and that Thai labour is in demand in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are seeking hospital executives, doctors, nurses, construction workers, and automotive staff.

Our Take

I’m a big fan of Thailand working to diversify its economy to not be so reliant on tourism. Establishing close ties like this feels like a step in that direction as far as I can tell. This is a country with so much potential and I’d love to see as much of it unleashed as possible through these sorts of initiatives. Thailand could become a hub for a variety of industries and companies based in the ASEAN Region.

Only In Thailand 🇹🇭

A café in Southern Thailand’s Songkhla Province had an interesting idea to attract more customers… serve drinks in bags that look like penises? After going viral on Thai social media, the café announced that they’re discontinuing the initiative and had the following apology to make:

“We have to apologise to all customers. We will not sell the penis bag anymore. It involves many sensitive issues. Thank you everyone for all your interest and support.”

No need to apologize guys. Keep on rockin’ however you please!

Press Worthy 🔥