Events and Presses NEWS

As part of the implementation of the New Southbound Policy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs convened a cross-government meeting of agencies in April to discuss the second round of visa-relaxation measures for New Southbound Policy target countries, including trial of visa-free treatment for Philippine nationals. In order to complete relevant administrative procedures and inter-agency coordination, the implementation of visa-free treatment for Philippine nationals will be postponed and the exact commencement date will be announced in September. To increase exchanges and interaction between Taiwan and New Southbound Policy target countries, the ROC government adopted a range of visa-relaxation measures on August 1, 2016, targeting India and a number of ASEAN nations, including the Philippines. The Philippines was also incorporated into Taiwan’s eVisa program on October 7, 2016, and Philippine tourists may continue to apply to visit Taiwan via existing channels despite the postponement of the visa-free trial. Read more

12 August 2016 From BBC the section Asia Share Jump media playerMedia player helpOut of media player. Press enter to return or tab to continue. Media captionTourist Laura Feltham describes hearing one of the bombs go off Police in the Thai resort of Hua Hin have arrested two men after bomb attacks there and across the country left four people dead. No further details were given of the detentions in the town, where two people were killed in explosions over the space of 24 hours. Phuket, a top tourist destination, was also targeted in the attacks. No group has said it carried out the attacks but suspicion is likely to fall on Islamist separatists. The timing is sensitive, as Friday is a holiday marking the queen's birthday. At least 10 foreigners were wounded in the attacks: three Germans, three Italians, an Austrian and three Dutch nationals. Blasts across Thailand in pictures The attackers focused on tourist hotspots: Four blasts over 24 hours in Hua Hin where two people died Two blasts in Surat Thani where one person died Two blasts in the tourist beach town of Patong on Phuket island One blast in Trang where one person died Blasts in the beach province of Phang Nga Hua Hin is about 200km (125 miles) from the capital Bangkok while the province of Phuket is in the far south. Both places, as well as Phang Nga, are known for their scenic beaches. Two bombs went off in front of police stations in Surat Thani within the space of half an hour. Andrea Tazzioli, an Italian tourist injured in Hua Hin, told the Associated Press news agency from his hospitable bed that a man standing next to him had been killed, so he felt lucky to be alive. "I was having a drink with other people, some of whom I knew, others I didn't [know], and suddenly there was a huge flash of light and an explosion," he said. "Immediately, I was hit in my back - luckily I had turned away. It was shrapnel. "There was blood, people shouting, others injured, one person dead, others shouting, others running away, others crying, others fainting, others who didn't know what to do. Someone helped me. Then the police arrived and I was taken to hospital." Wendy Herbert, an Australian expatriate who lives in Hua Hin, told the BBC the place was deserted on Friday, adding: "I think it's unfortunate because it's Mother's Day and the Queen's birthday in Thailand, so it's a big kind of event day, where everybody would be out and doing things." Rescuers and medical officers push an injured person on a gurney at the site of a bomb blast in Hua Hin, south of Bangkok, Thailand,Image copyrightREUTERS Image caption An injured person is rushed away from a bomb blast site in Hua Hin A Thai policeman helps an injured victim following a bomb attack in Hua Hin, Thailand, 12 August 2016.Image copyrightEUROPEAN PHOTOPRESS AGENCY Image caption Security was tightened around Hua Hin and at airports in southern Thailand Map showing the locations of the blasts in Thailand on 11 and 12 June Who could be behind the attacks? Police said they had detained some suspects but ruled out international terrorism. "Initial investigations reveal that two types of bombs were used, which are fire bombs and improvised explosive devices, or IEDs," said Royal Thai Police Col Krisana Patanacharoen. The bombings, he was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency, followed a "similar pattern used in the southern parts of the country". The BBC's Jonathan Head in Bangkok says that if southern rebels are behind these attacks, it would mark a significant change of tactics. The 12-year conflict in the south has killed more than 6,000 people, but has never targeted tourists. Security has been tightened in the tourist areas and at airports in southern Thailand. Foreign embassies have advised tourists to be vigilant. The UK Foreign Office has advised people in tourist areas to "exercise extreme caution, avoid public places and follow the advice of local authorities". Thailand's southern insurgency The country's Muslim minority largely originates in the three southernmost provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat Insurgents have been fighting since the early 2000s for an independent Islamic state modelled on the old Malay sultanate of Pattani Security forces, government workers and local Buddhist communities have been targeted in drive-by shootings, bombings and beheadings The violence has been largely confined to the south The Thai military and pro-government vigilantes have been accused of a heavy-handed response, including the torture and execution of prisoners Putting a face to the conflict in the south A damaged public telephone booth is seen at the site of a bomb blast in Hua Hin, south of Bangkok, ThailandImage copyrightREUTERS Image caption Hua Hin is a town just south of Bangkok popular with tourists Why have tourist hotspots been targeted? The attacks have clearly attempted to strike at Thailand's crucial tourism sector. Bloodstains on a pavement in Hua Hin, Thailand, 12 AugustImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES Image caption Bloodstains on a pavement in Hua Hin on Friday "The Thais call it [Hua Hin] a white town because there's so many expatriates who live here," Ms Herbert told the BBC. "There's a large expat community so the local feeling is, from expats and also from Thais, that this is designed to have maximum impact and damage internationally." But the choice of Hua Hin as a major target is also symbolic, our correspondent says, being known as a royal city and the king's favoured residence outside Bangkok. Jump media playerMedia player helpOut of media player. Press enter to return or tab to continue. Media captionFootage shows the aftermath of Thursday's bombings in Hua Hin. Has Thailand seen similar attacks? Home-made bombs have previously been used by attackers in Thailand at times of political unrest, but since the military took power in a coup in May 2014 such attacks have been extremely rare. "The bombs are an attempt to create chaos and confusion," PM Prayuth Chan-ocha said to reporters. "We should not make people panic more." This comes just days before the one-year anniversary of a bomb blast at the Erawan shrine in Bangkok that killed 20 people. The motive has still not been established. Last week, Thais voted in a referendum which approved a new constitution that will strengthen the military's influence in politics for many years. Read more

Mr. Jesse Laslovich, candidate for Montana state auditor, recently distributed an article, “Air ambulance flights add insult to injury,” suggesting air medical providers are the primary cause for the high cost of transporting critically ill patients. That position overlooks the insurance industry’s responsibility to cover their beneficiaries’ emergency medical needs. Simply put, some insurance companies that cover health care provided in a brick and mortar hospital, refuse to negotiate fair in-network rates for those same services when they are provided by clinicians in the back of an aircraft. Mr. Laslovich implies air medical providers refuse to negotiate with insurance companies. Air medical providers, including those operating in Montana, have negotiated fair agreements with insurers in many states, including some in Montana. Many of the “egregious” cases cited by Mr. Laslovich would have been covered in other states, resulting in no additional cost to the patient. Air medical providers welcome the opportunity to enter into agreements when they are fair and result from negotiations conducted on a level playing field. In states like Montana, where one dominant provider controls over 60 percent of the insurance market, those dominant insurance companies are able to set allowable rates for medical providers at whatever level they want, offering a “take-it-or-leave-it” in-network agreement at their arbitrarily set rates. When an air medical provider is unable to accept this substantially under-cost amount, the insurance company settles with their beneficiary and leaves them, unknowingly, on the hook for whatever amount remains that their insurer refuses to cover. The state auditor position regulates Montana’s insurance and financial-services industry. Mr. Laslovich has publicly said, “… I’ve dedicated my life to protecting Montana consumers, holding big insurance companies accountable, and fighting out-of-state special interests. … I’m running for state auditor to continue this work.” What has changed since Mr. Laslovich made this statement last year? Where is the accountability of the private insurance companies? Why is air medicine considered unworthy of insurance coverage like any other emergency medical intervention? Insurance companies have a responsibility to their beneficiaries when they require life-saving transportation and treatment. Air medical transports are highly-effective medical interventions, but are NOT appropriate for every patient. They are effective in cases of severe trauma, heart attack or stroke, when bringing high-levels of care to patients and swiftly transporting them directly to the right facility can significantly improve their outcomes. That is particularly true in rural areas, like much of Montana, where aircraft may function as the primary access to critical care. Air medical providers do not decide who they will transport. Every air medical transport request comes from a medically-trained first responder or from a physician who needs to move a patient to a higher level-of-care. Air medical providers are obligated to act, by law, and must respond to every transport request, within safety standards, without knowledge of the patient’s ability to pay. They incur every cost, every time, without knowing if they will ever be paid. Air medical providers save lives, but are not immune to the rapidly rising costs of medical care. One night in an ICU, for instance, can cost thousands of dollars. Creating those high levels-of-care inside aircraft that cost over $4 million and remaining ready to treat the most severely ill and injured patients 24-hours-a-day is also expensive. The air medical industry does not want to see patients or their families placed at financial risk. We are committed to finding a reasonable solution to the issue of cost to consumers. We welcome the opportunity to work with all of Montana’s officials to find a practical solution. But any solution that would truly address the problem must also examine health insurance coverage policies, the appropriateness of allowable rates and transparency in health insurance policies regarding the potential financial responsibilities of the patient. Montanans need timely access to life-saving emergency medical care and air medical providers remain ready 24 hours-a-day to provide that. Patients deserve transparent insurance policies that will be there for you as well. Let your elected officials know you want the insurance companies to pay their fair share and negotiate reasonable partnerships with air medical providers so patients aren’t victimized twice. Candidate Laslovich needs to be transparent about his agenda and motivation to overlook insurance company financial responsibilities when lives hang in the balance. Richard Sherlock is the president and CEO of the Association of Air Medical Services. Read more

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