Pattaya has 2,500 foreign visitors and counting

Expats and tourists alike want a return to the good old days. (File photo: Hard Rock Hotel Pattaya)

The Thai Hotels Association reckons that the Thailand Pass entry system has been slow getting off the ground in Pattaya. Phisut Sae-Khu, president of the eastern chapter, said that he expected the number to grow to 10,000 per month by the end of the year.

Pattaya Mail contacted three formally recognized “ASQ” hotels in the resort where new arrivals have to spend a night awaiting the result of their RT-PCR virus test. About half of the 2,500 arrivals since November 1 appear to be longstay residents with annual visas, the five-year Elite visa, work permits or permanent residency. The other 50 percent had arrived on 30 days visa exempt permission or 60-days tourist visas or, in at least two cases, the STV (Special Tourist Visa) which allows a vacation up to 270 days. Pattaya Mail stresses these are estimates based on local research.

Mr Phisut said he was disappointed about the continuing ban on sales of alcohol in restaurants, whilst bars and clubs remain shuttered at least until mid-January. He pointed out that drinking alcohol during the course of a meal was much less dangerous than illegal booze parties. Several local tourism-related associations had submitted a request to the Tourism and Sports Ministry to allow alcohol sales in venues specifically cleared by the government-recognized Safety and Health Administration.

But skeptical business sources in Pattaya say an immediate lifting of booze bans is unlikely while reported infection rates remain high. They sense that the government, though unlikely to admit it publicly, is concerned that any loophole will be exploited in a rebellious resort where police have been busy raiding “secret” gatherings of carefree individuals. Former Walking Street publican Ed Reese said, “The nightmare scenario is four people in a restaurant sharing endless bottles of liquor whilst or nibbling a cheese sandwich or a chicken leg.” Social distancing and health precautions become impossible after the first few glasses.

Police sources say that over 600 arrests have been made in the Pattaya area over the past three four months for illegal drinking at parties. Mostly, attendees have been fined and sent home after a night in the cells. Venue operators are mostly awaiting court appearances for violating their licence, or not having one in the first place. The overall number includes 150 foreigners.  Contrary to social media gossip and expectations, they are not imprisoned in overcrowded jails and deported in handcuffs. They are fined between 5,000 and 15,000 baht and told to behave.