My local minder is very conscientious:
Over the last year, the State Department has reiterated its Worldwide Caution on several occasions to remind U.S. citizens of the continuing threat that they may be targets of terrorist actions. The last Worldwide Caution was issued January 9, 2004, and remains in effect. For those of us living in Thailand, traffic accidents, pickpockets, and water safety remain concerns as well.
With the Songkran (Thai New Year) Festival just a few weeks away, many of us are looking forward to the distraction of travel, days off, and spending time with family. Some of us will take to the highways to visit beaches, resorts, and other tourist type locations. Some of us will stay in Bangkok and participate in the Songkran Festival locally.
But no matter what the plan, all of us must stay alert and security conscious, and practice good safety when it comes to travel and water sports.
As a quick review, excerpts from several of the Department's most recent notices have been repeated below for you. Additionally, some basic safety tips have been included concerning travel and crime. We ask that you read the material, share it with your family members, and have a great - and SAFE - Songkran Holiday.
THAILAND CONSULAR INFORMATION SHEET
-- SAFETY AND SECURITY: The State Department is concerned that there is an increased risk of terrorism in Southeast Asia, including Thailand. American citizens traveling to Thailand should, therefore, exercise caution, especially in locations where Westerners congregate such as clubs, discos, bars, restaurants, hotels, places of worship, schools, outdoor recreation venues, tourist areas, beach resorts, and other places frequented by foreigners. They should remain vigilant with regard to their personal security and avoid crowds and demonstrations.
-- Strong seasonal undercurrents at popular beach resorts pose a sometimes fatal threat to surfers and swimmers. Some, but not all, beaches have warning flags to indicate the degree of risk (red flag: sea condition dangerous for swimming; yellow flag: sea condition rough, swim with caution; green flag: sea condition stable).
To see the complete Thailand Consular Information Sheet, visit: http://travel.state.gov.
-- Terrorist actions may include, but are not limited to, suicide operations, hijackings, bombings or kidnappings. These may also involve commercial aircraft and maritime interests, and threats to include conventional weapons, such as explosive devices. Terrorists do not distinguish between official and civilian targets. These may include facilities where U.S. citizens and other foreigners congregate or visit, including residential areas, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, hotels, outdoor recreation events or resorts and beaches. U.S. citizens should remain in a heightened state of personal security awareness when attendance at such locations is unavoidable.
To see the complete Worldwide Caution, visit: http://travel.state.gov.
Here are some other safety tips:
CRIME AND SAFETY
Pickpockets: Large crowds and distracted people are a combination that pickpockets just love to see, and the Songkran Festival provides both. To avoid becoming a victim, please remember the following:
During Songkran, traffic accidents increase, especially those that involve motorcycles and pedestrians. While staying alert in Bangkok traffic is something you have to do all year long, water-related festivities, holiday travel, and large crowds make this period especially challenging. Some safety tips you may want to consider are:
Water safety is another area needing your full attention. Whether you are at a pool or the beach, know the rules and follow them. Use the buddy system, watch small children closely, and keep in mind that alcohol and water sports can be a dangerous mix.
The U.S. Embassy is located at 95 Wireless Road,
Bangkok 10330, Thailand (Nearest BTS Skytrain station: Phloen Chit)
U.S. Embassy Bangkok American Citizen Services Unit:
Window Hours: Monday - Friday, 8 - 11 AM and 1 - 3 PM
U.S. Department of State travel website: http://travel.state.gov
U.S. Embassy Bangkok website: http://bangkok.usembassy.gov
We are in Singapore. This afternoon we took flight SQ69 from BKK to SIN and a little while later we were on the 14th floor of The Oriental Singapore.
The suite is very similar to the ones at The Oriental Bangkok BEFORE the remodeling.
The view is quite spectacular ... the Singapore Lion is both far away and close. [OK, I wanted to play with my Nikon 5700 Extendo-lens (my name).]
We started our city tour at the Thian Hock Keng Temple, one of the oldest temples in Singapore.
The highest point in Singapore is Mount Faber ... only 160 meters above sea level; still lower than some of Singapore's buildings. It is served by road and Swiss made cable cars.
While we were at the top there was an ongoing contest to see how long a 'team' of riders (2 people per team) could stay aloft ... with only one 10 minute toilet break per day. After 7 days any survivors would receive S$50,000.00. Contestants who vomited on board or otherwise fouled the car would disqualified.
Followed by the obligatory stop at a 'gem and stone' factory where purchases were encouraged. We resisted.
The penultimate stop was at the National Orchid Garden within the Botanical Gardens. The highlight was an exhibit of "Golden Showers".
The city tour ended at a string of Indian shops where Indian things were sold. No photographs were taken. Nothing was purchased.
Until later ...
We are about to leave on a night safari through the Singapore Zoo. Scary, huh?
My Bangkok minder is getting long winded, picky and ... dare I say it ... a bit panicky.
But, before we go there let's visit an old friend: the California Prison System ... a place where lots of dangerous ladies are waiting to hear from us. We haven't been there in a long while ... so, there are lots of new inmates seeking friends. Meet:
Sex - Female
DOB - 09/17/67
Seeking - Men
Race - African American
Convicted Of - Manslaughter
Release Date - 2005
Finally you found me, the girl of your dreams. My name is Betty, I'm 35 years young and what you see is what you get. I'm looking for a man between the ages of 30-60 years old. Someone who is loving, caring, understanding, stable, and won't break my heart. I enjoy playful days and romantic nights.
I'm interested in an extended friendship and if things progress in a heartfelt manner I would be willing to relocate. I have no children, nor have I ever been married. I love to travel and see the sights. I am 100% woman and I know how to treat a man like a man.... From the kitchen to the bedroom.
I enjoy sports, especially football. My favorite teams are the San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland Raiders. I also enjoy a variety of music, such as jazz, country and R&B just to name a few.
I'm hoping to share my time with some I can trust, honesty is a must. If you feel that someone is you, don't be shy.... Write me and I promise to write you back.
Betty Jacobs # W-37570
C C W F (507-7-4Low)
P O Box 1508
Chowchilla, CA 93610-150 USA
Now, to the minder:
The American Citizen Services section and the Visa Unit of the US Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand will be closed to the public on Friday, March 26. In addition, the U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Sheet for Thailand was updated on March 10, 2004 - below is the text of this information sheet. It can also be found online at http://travel.state.gov/thailand.html
U.S. Department of State
Consular Information Sheet
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Thailand is a constitutional monarchy. Most of the population is Buddhist and ethnically Thai. Standard Thai is the official language of Thailand and is spoken in every province, though many areas also have a local dialect. Most Thais working in the tourist industry and in businesses dealing with foreigners can speak at least rudimentary English. Thailand is a popular travel destination, and tourist facilities and services are available throughout the country. At many tourist attractions, including national parks, foreigners are charged admission fees up to ten times higher than those charged to Thais.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: U.S. citizen tourists staying for less than 30 days do not require a visa, but must possess a passport and may be asked to show an onward/return ticket. A Passenger Service Charge must be paid in Thai baht when departing the country from any of Thailand's international airports.
When a traveler enters the country, Thai Immigration stamps the date on which the traveler's authorized stay in Thailand will expire in his or her passport. Any traveler remaining in Thailand beyond this date without having received an official extension will be assessed an immediate cash fine when departing Thailand. Any foreigner found by police to be out of legal status prior to departure (during a Thai Immigration "esweep"e through a guesthouse, for example) will be jailed, fined, and then deported at his or her own expense, and may be barred from re-entering Thailand.
In this regard, American citizens should be aware that private "evisa extension services,"e even those advertising in major periodicals or located close to Immigration offices or police stations, are illegal. In 2003, more than ten Americans were arrested at border crossings when the visas and entry stamps they had obtained through these illegal services were discovered to be counterfeit.
Thailand's Entry/Exit information is subject to change without notice. For further information on Thailand's entry/exit requirements, contact the Royal Thai Embassy, 1024 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C., 20007, telephone (202) 944-3600, or Internet website http://www.thaiembdc.org, or the Thai consulates in Chicago, Los Angeles, or New York City.
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: The State Department is concerned that there is an increased risk of terrorism in Southeast Asia, including in Thailand. American citizens traveling to Thailand should therefore exercise caution, especially in locations where Westerners congregate, such as clubs, discos, bars, restaurants, hotels, places of worship, schools, outdoor recreation venues, tourist areas, beach resorts, and other places frequented by foreigners. They should remain vigilant with regard to their personal security and avoid crowds and demonstrations. For more information on terrorist threats against Americans worldwide, and steps that U.S. citizens should take as a result of these threats, please see the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement at http://travel.state.gov/
The far south of Thailand has experienced incidents of criminally and politically motivated violence, including incidents attributed to armed local separatist/extremist groups. Although these groups focus primarily on Thai government interests, U.S. citizen travelers should remain vigilant with regard to their personal security. In January 2004, a series of incidents in Narathiwat, Pattani, and Yala provinces included the burning of government schools, the placement of bombs near local government offices, and armed attacks on military and police facilities. Travelers should be aware that Thai authorities may occasionally institute special security measures in affected areas, such as curfews, military patrols, or random searches of train passengers.
Tourists should also exercise caution in remote areas along the border with Burma. The Thai/Burma border is the site of on-going conflicts between the Burmese Army and armed opposition groups as well as of clashes between Thai security forces and armed drug traffickers. In addition, pirates, bandits and drug traffickers operate in these border areas.
In light of the continuing unsettled situation along Thailand border with Burma, which is subject to frequent closings to all traffic, the Department of State recommends that all Americans exercise caution when traveling in remote or rural areas immediately adjacent to the Burma border. There remains a possibility of significant flare-ups of military activity on the Burmese side of the border that could spill over into immediately adjacent areas of northern Thailand. Visitors should travel off-road in undeveloped areas only with local guides who are familiar with the area. Border closings and re-openings occur frequently, and U.S. citizens considering traveling into Burma from Thailand should be aware that in the event of a border closure they may not be able to re-enter Thailand.
Tourists should obtain information from Thai authorities about whether official border crossing points are open, and should cross into neighboring countries only at designated crossing points. Licensed guides can help ensure that trekkers do not cross inadvertently into a neighboring country.
Travelers should be aware that there have been occasional incidents of violence on Thailand's northern and eastern borders with Laos. In July 2000, five people were killed and several fled from Laos to Thailand during a skirmish between apparent insurgents and government forces in Laos near the eastern border crossing at Chong Mek. Additionally, two U.S. citizens in 1999 and one in early 2000 were reported missing after attempting to cross illegally into Laos at the Lao-Thai border.
Although tourists have not been targeted specifically by this occasional violence, caution remains advisable. It is recommended that persons wishing to travel to border areas check with the Thai Tourist Police and the U.S. Consulate General in Chiang Mai or the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok.
Strong seasonal undercurrents at popular beach resorts pose a sometimes fatal threat to surfers and swimmers. During the monsoon season from May through October, drowning is the leading cause of death for tourists visiting the resort island of Phuket. Some, but not all, beaches have warning flags to indicate the degree of risk (red flag: sea condition dangerous for swimming; yellow flag: sea condition rough, swim with caution; green flag: sea condition stable). In July 2001, an American tourist died in a surfing accident in Phuket at a beach that was not marked, and in January 2004, an American drowned after underestimating the strength of the current off of Koh Samui.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov/ where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found.
CRIME INFORMATION: Although the crime threat in Bangkok remains lower than that in many American cities, crimes of opportunity such as pickpocketing, purse-snatching, and burglary have become more common in recent years. Travelers should be especially wary when walking in crowded markets, tourist sites and bus or train stations. Many American citizens have reported having passports, wallets, and other valuables stolen in Bangkok's Chatuchak Weekend Market, usually by thieves who cut into purses or bags with a razor and remove items surreptitiously. Police at the Market usually refuse to issue police reports for foreign victims of theft, requiring them instead to travel several miles to the central Tourist Police office. Violent crimes against foreigners are relatively rare.
Reports of serious crimes involving taxis or "tuk-tuks" (three-wheeled taxis) are also relatively rare, although attempts to charge excessive fares occur regularly. In 2003, there were several taxi-related incidents in Bangkok involving foreign passengers. In one, a taxi driver stabbed two English teachers, an American and a Canadian, after an argument; in another, a taxi driver stole over $9,000 from an American passenger after the American dozed off; and in yet another, a taxi driver shot a Japanese flight attendant riding in his cab. Americans should not hesitate to ask to be let out of a taxi immediately if the driver is acting suspiciously or driving erratically.
When arriving at Bangkok's airport, travelers should use only taxis from the airport's official taxi stand, cars from the airport limousine counters, or airport buses. All major hotels in Bangkok can also arrange to have a car and driver meet incoming flights. It is not common for Thai taxis to pick up additional passengers. Travelers should be wary of drivers seeking to do so, and should never enter a cab that has someone besides the driver in it. In March 2000, a U.S. citizen was attacked and robbed by a taxi driver and an accomplice whom the driver had picked up en route.
Americans frequently encounter taxi drivers and others who tout gem stores or entertainment venues. These touts receive kickbacks or commissions which drive up the prices of the goods or services, and travelers should not accept tours or other offers from them. Scams involving gems, city tours, entertainment venues and credit cards are common, especially in areas heavily visited by tourists. Credit cards should only be used in reputable, established businesses, and the amount charged should be checked for accuracy.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) receives over 1,000 complaints each year from visitors who have been cheated on gem purchases. Gem scams usually follow a predictable pattern. Someone will approach a tourist outside of a well-known tourist attraction such as the Grand Palace or the Jim Thompson House, and will say that the attraction is closed. The friendly stranger will quickly gain the tourist's confidence, and will suggest a visit to a temple which is supposedly open only one day per year; the stranger will then mention in passing that a special once-a-year government-sponsored gem sale is going on, and will direct the tourist to a waiting tuk-tuk. At the temple, another stranger - sometimes a foreigner - will engage the tourist in conversation and will, by seeming coincidence, also mention the "especial"e gem sale. The tourist agrees to go look at the gem shop, and is soon convinced to buy thousands of dollars worth of jewels which can supposedly be sold in the U.S. for a 100% profit. When the tourist actually has the goods appraised, they turn out to be of minimal value, and the shop's money-back guarantee is not honored. No matter what a tout may say, no jewelry stores are owned, operated, or sponsored by the Thai Government or by the Thai royal family. Lists of gem dealers who have promised to abide by TAT guidelines are available online at http://www.tat.or.th/do/gems.htm, while detailed information on gem scams can be found on numerous Internet websites. A traveler who has fallen victim to a gem scam should contact the local branch of the Tourist Police, or call their country-wide toll-free number: 1155.
Although most bars and entertainment venues operate honestly, some, especially in tourist areas such as Patpong, may at times try to charge exorbitant amounts for drinks or unadvertised cover charges, and to threaten violence if the charges aren't paid. If victimized in this fashion, travelers should not attempt to resolve the problem themselves, but should instead pay the price demanded and then seek out a nearby Tourist Police officer for help in getting restitution. (If no officer is nearby, the Tourist Police may be contacted toll-free by dialing 1155.)
There have been occasional reports of scopolamine druggings perpetrated by prostitutes or unscrupulous bar workers for the purpose of robbery. Tourists have also been victimized by drugged food and drink, usually offered by a friendly stranger, sometimes posing as fellow traveler on an overnight bus or train. In addition, casual acquaintances met in a bar or on the street may pose a threat. Travelers are advised to avoid leaving drinks or food unattended, and should avoid going to unfamiliar venues alone. Some trekking tour companies, particularly in Northern Thailand, have been known to make drugs available to trekkers. In July 2001, an American died after smoking opium in a northern hilltribe village. Travelers should not accept drugs of any kind, as the drugs may be altered or harmful, and the use or sale of narcotic drugs is illegal.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical treatment is generally adequate throughout Thailand, and is quite good in Bangkok, where excellent facilities exist for routine, long-term and emergency health care. Thailand has been experiencing an epidemic of HIV infection and AIDS. Heterosexual transmission accounts for most HIV infections, and HIV is common among prostitutes of both sexes, as well as among injection drug users. HIV infections among men who have sex with men appear to be on the rise. Additionally, alcoholic beverages, medications and drugs may be more potent or of a different composition than similar ones in the United States. Several U.S. citizen tourists die in Thailand each year of apparent premature heart attacks after drinking alcohol or using drugs.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.
When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad>, consult the World Health Organization's website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/iht.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Thailand is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance:
Safety of Public Transportation: Fair
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor
Traffic moves on the left in Thailand, although motorcycles and motorized carts often drive (illegally) against the traffic flow. The city of Bangkok has heavy traffic composed of motorcycles, cars, trucks, buses, and three-wheeled tuk-tuks. For safety, pedestrians should use overhead walkways whenever possible and should look carefully in both directions before crossing streets, even when using a marked crosswalk with a green "ewalk"e light illuminated. This is particularly true in front of the U.S. Embassy on Bangkok's Wireless Road, where many pedestrians have died crossing the street, and where several American citizens have been seriously injured. The Embassy has instructed its employees to use the pedestrian bridge to cross the road at all times, and other Americans should do the same.
Traffic accidents are common in Thailand, and those involving motorcycles can be particularly deadly. The Embassy has sent a notice to Embassy staff and family members strongly recommending that they refrain from using motorcycles (especially motorcycle taxis), mopeds, and tuk-tuks in Bangkok, and the Embassy advises American visitors and residents to follow this recommendation as well. In 2003, eight Americans were killed in traffic accidents in Thailand, seven of whom were riding motorcycles. Use of motorcycle helmets is mandatory, but this law is seldom enforced. The accident rate in Thailand is particularly high during long holidays, when alcohol use and traffic are both heavier than normal. During the Songkran (Thai New Year) holiday in April, the problem is further exacerbated by people throwing water at passing vehicles as part of the traditional celebration. Over the week-long New Year holiday in December 2003 - January 2004, accidents caused over 850 deaths and more! than 42,000 injuries on Thai roads; over 75% of the accidents involved motorcycles.
Paved roads, many of them four lanes wide, connect Thailand's major cities. On the country's numerous two lane roads, however, slow-moving trucks limit speed and visibility. Speeding, reckless passing, and failure to obey traffic laws is common in all regions of Thailand, as is the consumption of alcohol, amphetamines and other stimulants by commercial drivers. Serious bus crashes occur frequently, especially on overnight trips, and sometimes result in fatalities. Congested roads and a scarcity of ambulances can make it difficult for accident victims to receive timely medical attention. Thailand requires that all vehicles be covered by third-party liability insurance for death or injury, but there is no mandatory coverage for property damage. The Embassy strongly encourages its employees to obtain liability insurance coverage over and above the minimum third party liability insurance required by the Thai Government. American citizen motorists should consider this as well, as! the more affluent driver, even if not at fault, is frequently compelled to cover the expenses of the other party in an accident in Thailand.
Travelers in Bangkok may wish to travel about the city using the BTS "eSkytrain"e elevated mass transit system, which operates daily from 6 a.m. to midnight. Bangkok also has an extensive bus system, but buses can be overcrowded, and are often driven with little or no regard for passenger safety. Cities elsewhere in Thailand typically have only rudimentary public transportation, and usually do not have metered taxis. In many cases, motorcycle taxis, tuk-tuks, bicycle-powered rickshaws, and pick-up trucks will be the only options available for travelers without their own transport. Americans should be cautious when using these services, as all can be dangerous in fast or heavy traffic.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Thailand's civil aviation authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Thailand's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 256-4801.
CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Thai customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Thailand of items such as firearms, explosives, narcotics and drugs, radio equipment, books or other printed material and video or audio recordings which might be considered subversive to national security, obscene, or in any way harmful to the public interest and cultural property. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Thailand in Washington, D.C., or one of the Thai consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Thai customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA Carnet Headquarters
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Thai laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
In this connection, it is a criminal offense to make negative comments about the King or other members of the royal family. Thais hold the King in the highest regard, and it is a serious crime to make critical or defamatory comments about him. This particular crime, called "lese majeste", is punishable by a prison sentence of three to fifteen years. Purposely tearing or destroying Thai bank notes, which carry an image of the King, may be considered such an offense, as can spitting on or otherwise defiling an official uniform bearing royal insignia.
The Thai Government has publicly stated that it will not tolerate the use of Thai territory as a base by groups trying to overthrow or destabilize the governments of nearby countries. Numerous American citizens have been arrested or detained under suspicion of carrying out such activities; sometimes these detentions are carried out by military authorities, and the Embassy does not learn of them until many days after the fact. Many other Americans suspected of advocating the armed overthrow of other governments have been "blacklisted" from entering the country. Americans should be aware that attempts to overthrow foreign governments by force may violate U.S. law as well as Thai law.
Penalties for the possession, use, or trafficking of illegal drugs in Thailand are severe. Convicted offenders can expect long prison sentences under harsh conditions, and often heavy fines as well. Thailand also has a death penalty for serious drug offenses, and has executed convicted traffickers. The U.S. Embassy frequently does not learn of the arrest of U.S. citizens for minor drug offenses, particularly in southern Thailand, until several days after the incident.
Thai police occasionally raid discos, bars, or nightclubs looking for underage patrons and drug users. During the raids, they typically check the IDs of all customers in the establishment, and then make each person provide a urine sample to be checked for narcotics. Foreigners are not excused from these checks, and anyone whose urine tests positive for drugs is arrested and charged. Although some Thai civil libertarians have questioned the constitutionality of these forced urine tests, the Embassy is unaware of any successful challenge to the practice, and customers can be jailed if they do not cooperate.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone the Overseas Citizens Services call center at 1-888-407-4747. The OCS call center can answer general inquiries regarding international adoptions and abductions and will forward calls to the appropriate country officer in the Bureau of Consular Affairs. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-317-472-2328.
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS: Americans living in or visiting Thailand are encouraged to register, either online, or in person at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok or the U.S. Consulate General in Chiang Mai <http://bangkok.usembassy.gov/consulcm/>. At both locations updated information on travel and security in Thailand is available. The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy is located at 95 Wireless Road in Bangkok; the U.S. mailing address is APO AP 96546-0001. The central switchboard number is (66-2) 205-4000; the American Citizen Services Unit number is (66-2) 205-4049; and the fax number is (66-2) 205-4103. The web site for the U.S. Embassy is http://bangkok.usembassy.gov/. American citizens can register online via the web site. Questions regarding American Citizens Services can be submitted by e-mail to email@example.com. The U.S. Consulate General in Chiang Mai is located at 387 Wichayanond Road; the U.S. mailing address is Box C, APO AP 96546. The telephone number is (66-53) 252-629 and the fax number is (66-53) 252-633.
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated May 27, 2003, to update the sections on country description, entry/exit requirements, safety and security, crime information, medical insurance and other health information, traffic safety and road conditions, aviation safety oversight, customs regulations, criminal penalties, children's issues, and registration/embassy and consulate locations.
The U.S. Embassy is located at 95 Wireless Road,
Bangkok 10330, Thailand (Nearest BTS Skytrain station: Phloen Chit)
U.S. Embassy Bangkok American Citizen Services Unit:
Window Hours: Monday - Friday, 8 - 11 AM and 1 - 3 PM
U.S. Department of State travel website: http://travel.state.gov
U.S. Embassy Bangkok website: http://bangkok.usembassy.gov
PS: Yikes, a 'hometown' girl makes it BIG:
Sex - Female
Please write this inmate at:
Jennifer Twist # B-816719
The Oriental Singapore as seen from the Clifford Pier.
Yesterday we sailed on the M. V. Cheng Ho, a replica of a famous Imperial vessel of the Ming Dynasty, the Da Fu.
Leaving from the historical Clifford Pier we passed through the mouth of the Singapore River, landing site of Sir Stamford Raffles, founder of modern Singapore. We cruised through through a cluster of tropical islands before stepping ashore at Kusu Island ...
"Alf, you sound like you're reading from the brochure! Cut straight to the pictures and spare us the crap!"
A quiet day in Singapore.
PS: Though later today we did manage to tuck in a visit to the Wat Haw Crematorium. This facility was built in the late 1940s using ... at that time ... 'state of the art' technology. Ex-pat German engineers from I.G. Farben contributed their design skills in return for 'anonymous housing'. (*)
(*) This is a rough translation from a Paraguayan slang expression. More literally, the original means "a place to eat and sleep without having to worry about always pulling shut the curtains to make sure that someone is not looking at you, especially if that someone is looking for you". Of course, seasoned THOCBDC readers will remember that the term "curtain hotel" in the Thai language means something entirely different ... though the concept of a prized anonymity of abode is shared by both.
Last night a great storm swept over Singapore. Originating in the Malaysian peninsula, it dumped only a few millimeters of rain before spending itself on the open sea to the south.
On our last full day in Singapore we visited Sentosa Island ... the home of the Butterfly Park and Underwater World ... the cable car machinery from the mainland to the island was built by the Swiss (Who else?):
Singapore Airlines! Not only does it have the deserved reputation for being the BEST airline in the world ... but, its First Class Lounge at its home airport (Changi) at Singapore is shoulder to shoulder with it.
PS: The plane ride was super, too. We had the first class section all to ourselves.
Next: Back in Bangkok