Grapevine – June 19, 2019

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Hi Tech Immigration

They finally did it! The latest computers at the immigration bureau – in operation at all airports and border posts – use facial technology to identify entrants. This should pick up those who, deliberately or accidentally, use someone else’s passport with similar features. A separate scam, whereby a wannabe visitor with a guilty conscience gets a new passport under a different name, also won’t work out.

 

Garden of Eden

Unless you are a cultural Philistine you just have to visit the new Butterfly Corner, hidden away behind Pattaya Sheep Farm. Thousands of butterflies fly in a quite extraordinary 5,000 sqm lush, tropical dream. It’s another Pattaya first as Butterfly Garden is said to be the largest park of its type in the world. Sort of place Adam and Eve might have met.

 

No gay marriage

Notwithstanding rumors, the military government did not actually pass legislation allowing same sex marriage or civil partnerships in Thailand. But the new parliament, with four transgender Assembly members, is expected to look again. Incidentally, the earlier draft bill proposed legal recognition for same sex Thai couples only. Nothing in it for gay foreigners.

 

General Prem footnote

It’s not sure whether Prem Tinsulanonda, the former prime minister who died last month, was a bridge player. But one of his aides did phone a Pattaya bridge club member in 2016 after the amazing arrest of 30 pensioners for alleged gambling. The aide wanted to know if everyone was safe. Yes, everyone was released within hours, passports and bail money returned and no prosecutions were ever brought.

 

The eyes have it

It has been estimated that a quarter of all westerners over 70 years have a slow-progressing eye disease such as macular degeneration or glaucoma. In other words, eyesight is stolen without your noticing at first. Those oldies who sense they now have a new difficulty reading or can’t see peripherally as well as before need to book an appointment. Soon.

 

Fraudsters beware

When Brits renew their passport overseas, they have to provide a color copy of every page of their expiring document. In a recent case, a Pattaya Brit was fined a great deal of money after the UK passport authority evidently informed the Inland Revenue. It was noticed that he had several retirement extensions for Thailand in his passport. The problem? He had been claiming still to live in the UK and was dubiously claiming the annual increase and winter fuel allowance in his old age pension. That pension is frozen if you are not based in UK.

 

Volunteer smokers

You probably don’t need a work permit to be one of these. The government is dismayed that there are still so many smokers in spite of increased taxes and horror pics on the covers of ciggie packs. So health officials are asking for help from volunteers who will each convince three smokers to give up the habit. Such a strategy would never have convinced Mark Twain who said, “If smoking is not allowed in heaven, I shall not go”.

 

The future of Pattaya

The death of Pattaya has been predicted ever since the 1970s. The end of the Vietnam war, the AIDS onslaught, the end of the oil boom and the decline in European tourism have all been held responsible for the imaginary and imminent demise. Of course, it’s nonsense. Pattaya has obviously changed and you don’t need a degree in architecture to realize it. But it would be wise not to assume that some empty bar stools in South Pattaya mean the end of the resort. Don’t send for an autopsy report.

 

Shortage of bodies

The latest stats show that Thailand’s youthful population has shrunk 40 percent in the last thirty years. In the mid-1990s there were well over nine million school-age children in the population. By the early 2020s, that will have shrunk to around five million. This is the second biggest percentage shrinkage, after Japan, and explains why so many Myanmar, Cambodian and Laos construction-site workers are already needed to fill the gap.

 

Thoughts for the week

Women and men are not in short supply round here. Here are some conclusions. “The most important thing in a relationship between a man and a woman is that one of them should be good at taking orders,” (Linda Festa). “Behind every successful man is a surprised woman,” (Maryon Pearson). “A successful man is one who makes more money than his wife can spend, whereas a successful woman is one who can find such a man,” (Lana Turner).