Thailand welcomes tourists clad in rubber gloves and face shields

Chinese tourists arrive in Bangkok on special tourist visas, the first arrival since Thailand banned commercial flights almost seven months ago. (AP)
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Updated 22 October 2020

Thailand welcomes tourists clad in rubber gloves and face shields

  • The tourism-reliant country could see just 6.7 million foreign visitors this year

BANGKOK: Thailand received a group of tourists from China on Tuesday, its first such arrivals since commercial flights were banned in April to combat the coronavirus pandemic, the visitors seemingly undeterred by escalating street demonstrations in Bangkok.

Thirty-nine tourists from Shanghai arrived on Tuesday night, the deputy director of the country’s main Suvarnabhumi Airport, Kittipong Kittikachorn, said in a statement.

Thai public television showed masked tourists exiting the airport, with officials in full protective equipment spraying their luggage with disinfectant. Outside, some of the tourists donned face shields and put on rubber gloves as they prepared to board buses to their hotels. 

The arrivals come as anti-government protesters continue to defy a ban on gatherings after authorities declared a severe emergency situation in Bangkok.

The unrest has not affected interest in the country, Tourism Authority of Thailand chief Yuthasak Supasorn said. “There have been no cancelations or any inquiries about it so far and people are following the news,” he added.

Student-led rallies, sometimes drawing 10,000 people, have occupied busy intersections for hours before peacefully dispersing. In one incident last week, water cannon was used on demonstrators.

The tourism-reliant country could see just 6.7 million foreign visitors this year, the government says, less than a fifth of a record 39.8 million in 2019.

The government banned commercial flights in April to keep COVID-19 at bay, and new cases have mostly been Thais returning home. The country has reported a total of 3,700 infections.

New tourist arrivals are on special 90-day visas and must quarantine for two weeks — seven days in their hotel rooms and seven days on their hotel grounds — and test negative three times before they can move around freely.

“Once they pass that they will be able to move to other destinations (within Thailand),” Tourism Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said on Thai PBS television.

A second batch of 147 tourists from Guangzhou, China, are due to arrive on Oct. 26, with more due next month.

“Winter is coming so more tourists from European countries, the US, Korea and Japan would also like to come visit us around this time,” said Phiphat.

US sanctions Chinese and Russian firms over Iran trade

Updated 29 November 2020

US sanctions Chinese and Russian firms over Iran trade

  • Four companies accused of ‘transferring sensitive technology and items’ to missile program

LONDON: The US has slapped economic sanctions on four Chinese and Russian companies that Washington claims helped to support Iran’s missile program.

The four were accused of “transferring sensitive technology and items to Iran’s missile program” and will be subject to restrictions on US government aid and their exports for two years, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

The sanctions, imposed on Wednesday, were against two Chinese-based companies, Chengdu Best New Materials and Zibo Elim Trade, as well as Russia’s Nilco Group and joint stock company Elecon.

“These measures are part of our response to Iran’s malign activities,” said Pompeo. “These determinations underscore the continuing need for all countries to remain vigilant to efforts by Iran to advance its missile program. We will continue to work to impede Iran’s missile development efforts and use our sanctions authorities to spotlight the foreign suppliers, such as these entities in the PRC and Russia, that provide missile-related materials and technology to Iran.”

The Trump administration has ramped up sanctions on Tehran after withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018.

Earlier this week, Pompeo met Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah, when the campaign of pressure on the Iranian regime was also discussed.

“I want to thank Kuwait for its support of the maximum pressure campaign. Together, we are denying Tehran money, resources, wealth, weapons with which they would be able to commit terror acts all across the region,” he said.

It is not yet clear how the incoming administration of Joe Biden will deal with Tehran and whether it wants to revive the nuclear deal which would be key reviving the country’s battered economy. The Iranian rial has lost about half of its value this year against the dollar, fueling inflation and deepening the damage to the economy.

Iran’s economy would grow as much as 4.4 percent next year if sanctions were lifted, the Institute of International Finance (IIF) said last week. 

The economy is expected to contract by about 6.1 percent in 2020 according to IIF estimates.