Pattaya’s transport lockdown has unexpected results, say critics

The traffic checkpoint outside Banglamung police station mainly operates during nightly curfew hours.

The policy of the government and the provincial authority to semi-isolate Pattaya in an attempt to reduce virus casualties is a mixed-bag of consequences, according to some Thai and farang residents of the beleaguered city. Although the nighttime curfew, 9 pm to 4 am, is being generally observed apart from dare-devil party goers who seriously risk arrest, the daytime situation is much less clear.

Although public transport to other provinces has been decapitated, the main roads are still busy with private cars and no significant attempt to question the occupants. The major road checkpoint on Sukhumvit Road, outside Banglamung district office and police station, rarely appears to be manned during daylight hours with traffic flowing freely without interruption. Local vendor Prem Jamlong, who runs a food store nearby, said, “In spite of warnings that the authorities would crack down on non-essential travel during the day as well as after dark, this hasn’t happened.”

Pattaya rent-a-car dealer Jay Wirapong agreed. “Buses and trains aren’t running, but people have turned instead to private transport, hiring cars and other vehicles in much bigger numbers than usual.” UK retiree Andrew Philips said, “I drove yesterday all the way to Ban Sue station in Bangkok to get my first Astra Zeneca jab and never even saw a manned checkpoint, either going or coming. I had with me the online form to seek permission to leave the province, but nobody asked for it.”

The North Pattaya bus terminal and depot lies deserted after the ban on most inter-provincial public transport.

On July 13, the local authorities ordered all visitors to Pattaya to self-isolate for two weeks without leaving their accommodation. But not much has been heard of this requirement in the past two weeks. However, the Banglamung police authority does have a number of officers on motorbikes making spot checks in the Greater Pattaya area. One of them told Pattaya Mail that they were particularly interested in minivans or pickups which could harbor illegal immigrants or economic migrants being moved around the province.

A further issue raised by locals is the ban on visiting golf courses in Chonburi province. The provincial order, effective July 20, particularly mentioned golf venues as well as swimming pools with beaches following soon after. But other neighboring provinces, such as Rayong, have not banned outdoor golf which has led to massive crowding at most courses as drivers from Chonburi seek their enjoyment outside the prohibited zone. If provincial orders are designed to deter social mixing and close physical contact, this one seems to have rebounded awkwardly.

With new infections in Chonburi province now approaching 1,000 daily – although the actual testing figures always relate a couple of days previously – nobody is expecting the lockdown to end any time soon. But the persistent issue is whether a successful lockdown is compatible with freedom of movement in private vehicles both inside and outside the provincial borders.

Workmen hammer home one of many notices on the sands, in Thai only, ordering the closure of Pattaya and Jomtien beaches unless you happen to be a fisherman.