Days after a cabinet order for a universal foreign tourist insurance scheme, Minister Sudawan Wang-Suphakitkosol proposes a ministry-funded emergency claims budget instead. This reversal raises concerns, especially as it overlooks the negative global impact of stricken tourists resorting to online medical fundraising.

Just days after a cabinet meeting ordered the Minister of Tourism and Sports to organise a universal foreign tourist insurance scheme for all incoming visitors, the minister has come out to pour cold water on the plan. Minister Sudawan Wang-Suphakitkosol is proposing again that a directly funded ministry budget for emergency claims from tourists in the event of an accident or disaster is the way to go. The issue will be discussed again at the next cabinet meeting.

Just hours after a cabinet meeting reportedly ordered universal insurance for foreign tourists, Minister of Tourism and Sports Sudawan Wang-Suphakitkosol has scotched the idea. She will again propose a ministerial budget to pay compensation for accidents and emergencies only.

After a cabinet meeting this week decided to introduce automatic insurance coverage for incoming tourists, as ordered by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, comes news of a change of plan.

Minister of Tourism and Sport, Ms Sudawan Wang-Suphakitkosol, now reveals that the plan for universal insurance cover for tourists may not be necessary after all.

Fund provided by the Tourism ministry not claimed by foreign tourists in the past. Therefore no need for a universal foreign tourist insurance scheme

It is not clear what the basis for the decision is. At any rate, the Minister quoted figures related to the emergency claims for compensation in the past from foreign tourists. She clarified these were generally lower than the budget provided by her department. 

The Minister appeared to be focusing entirely on instances where tourists were involved in accidents or criminal acts such as the situation which occurred after the Siam Paragon shooting massacre in October.

After that incident, her ministry confirmed that the budget for compensating tourists had been cancelled by the previous government.

Later, funding was made available to compensate the family of the Chinese woman murdered that day.

Compelling reason behind the call for tourist insurance ignored by the minister’s latest thinking. Ongoing damage to Thailand’s image abroad suffered

At the same time, Ms Sudawan appears to ignore the compelling reason for the call for universal medical insurance for tourists.

This is ongoing negative press coverage on international media caused by foreign online fundraising for stricken visitors to Thailand. The internet phenomenon has an extremely damaging effect on the country’s image abroad.

On Tuesday, Ms Sudawan attended a cabinet meeting that proposed a stopgap funding measure. This addressed claims by tourists who had suffered emergencies or accidents. 

At length, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin ordered a universal medical insurance scheme for all foreign visitors. This was provided for in the now-shelved tourist levy. It was seen as a valuable initiative for the future of the tourism industry.

The matter is to be addressed again by the Cabinet next week.

Illness appears not to be covered under the new scheme

The minister’s new proposal covers foreign tourists in the event of serious injury or an emergency. This would be limited to ฿500,000 per person or ฿1 million in the event of death.

However, medical illness appears not to be covered.

Several stories aired just in the past few weeks, on international media related intrinsically to this issue.

For instance, one story featured Irishman James Burke who developed a viral infection from a mosquito bite. The insect carried the dengue fever virus.

His family had to fund a €176,000 or ฿6.6 million bill for his care at a private Bangkok hospital.

Irish man’s family turn to media when confronted with a ฿6.6 million medical bill to save tourist’s life 
Time for dithering on tourist insurance to stop as the PM orders universal coverage for all visitors to Thailand
Another black eye for Thai tourism with sick UK man’s ‘horrific’ plight in Phuket exposed on world’s media

Previously, in November, the story of Dean Penton from Southend-on-Sea, in the United Kingdom received worldwide tabloid news coverage.

Again, his friends and family were trying to pay his medical fees, this time at a public hospital.

Directly funded ministry budget on a claim-by-claim basis does not cover the ongoing need for universal medical insurance for foreign tourists in Thailand

The British man was diagnosed with a condition similar to leukaemia after being hospitalised at Phuket’s Vachira Hospital in November. 

Both men needed substantial funding to pay for their medical expenses in Thailand.

Afterwards, these stories saw successful fundraising appeals online. Friends and family of the two men sought millions of baht to pay for their ongoing hospital care in Thailand.

Following the cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the tourism minister, Ms Sudawan Wang-Suphakitkosol, appears to be proposing a compensation scheme for tourists coming directly from the government’s budget on a claim-by-claim basis. This would bypass any need for tourist insurance.

However, it is unclear if this proposal would provide any broad coverage to incoming visitors to Thailand at all.

It appears to be limited to emergency claims in the event of serious accidents or disasters.

Tourism levy may yet be resurrected says top official

Earlier, Ms Sudawan confirmed also that the tourism levy had been shelved indefinitely. After that, she indicated that this would be until the industry had fully recovered from its current downturn.

Permanent Tourism and Sports Secretary, Mr Arrun Boonchai, confirmed that the scheme to impose a tourist fee was not dead. At some stage, however, he said it will again be brought before ministers. He explained it needed to be re-examined and again presented to the cabinet in a new format.

At length, the Tourism Minister and her officials now appear to be proposing tourist safety campaigns.

Prime Minister Mr Srettha has already ordered better policing of tourism hotspots during the current high season.

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Further reading:

Time for dithering on tourist insurance to stop as PM orders universal coverage for all visitors to Thailand

Irish man’s family turn to media when confronted with a ฿6.6 million medical bill to save tourist’s life

Tragic death of a Taiwanese tourist is another wake-up call for the government on insurance cover

66-year-old Thai woman highlights Thailand’s official tiered pricing in hospitals for foreigners

Another black eye for Thai tourism with sick UK man’s ‘horrific’ plight in Phuket exposed on world’s media

Tourist levy hits further turbulence with fears it could harm airline’s effort to boost flight numbers

Negative reaction and horror at Thailand’s plan to charge foreigners more than locals at hotels

Mass tourism to return again in 2021 with 10 million visitors targeted and full insurance cover with arrival levy

Thailand could introduce tourist tax or levy next year as expert group begins to examine plans

UK man stranded in Thailand facing a £100,000 medical bill 

Anutin: time to halt foreign tourism price deals, Thailand to be the Louis Vuitton of the world travel market

Battlefield friends help UK man and wife escape medical bill of £12k in Thailand. Now safely home