Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘US-Thai Treaty of Amity’

9th August 2018

In recent months, the rules upon which the regime for issuing and maintaining Thai work permits and visas have been undergoing some changes. However, the permanence of these changes remains to be seen and the practical implications of these changes are also open to speculation. Hopefully the following posting with provide some clarification with respect to where work permit and visa rules currently stand.

Work Permit Restrictions Appear to be Loosened

Since the promulgation of the Emergency decrees regarding work permits in Thailand analysts seem increasingly convinced that regulations regarding time, place, and manner of work in Thailand have loosened. In the past, Thai work permit regulations (and the enforcement agencies associated therewith) viewed the rules very strictly when it came to the specific locations where foreigners could undertake labor, the specific functions foreigners could perform, and the timing of when a foreign worker could begin working. For example, foreign temporary workers had to await issuance of a work permit book or temporary work document in order to begin working. Meanwhile, those issued with long term work permits were at one time restricted to performing their job only within the premises of the business acting as the work permit sponsor. Later, the geographic scope of labor endeavor was expanded to allow foreigners to undertake work throughout a specific province in Thailand. However, under any circumstances the foreign national with work authorization had to be circumspect in their endeavors as the work activities they undertook had to fall within the boundaries of the job description specified within the provisions of the work permit itself.

Pursuant to the provisions of the second emergency decree regarding the management of foreign workers in Thailand it appears that many of the restrictions regarding geographic scope of activity have been lifted. Meanwhile, the strict scrutiny of job functions appears to be a thing of the past as well (although a list of occupations restricted to Thai nationals is still in force so long as the activity in question is not specifically in violation of that list the foreign worker should be free from sanction). Furthermore, it appears that certain temporary workers who are brought into Thailand for a short period of time may be able to perform their function in a much more immediate manner compared to the past as, depending upon circumstances and subject to the aforementioned list of restricted activity, many workers may be able to immediately begin performing their functions.

The Return of the One Year Multiple Entry Visa?

It would seem that there is another possible change to Thai regulations regarding work authorization and business visas in Thailand. Apparently, regulations now stipulate that some of those working for a foreign company in Thailand (such as a Representative Office) are no longer required to obtain a work permit. This new exemption apparently only extends to Directors of such organizations. Furthermore, it appears that so-called Amity Treaty Companies (those corporations certified as American and therefore accorded protections pursuant to the US-Thai Treaty of Amity) are now subject to such exemption. Under such circumstances the directors of such companies are able to apply for a 1 year multiple entry visa from their country of origin. As of the time of this writing, this blogger has yet to personally deal with a matter arising under these new rule changes, but the creation of new immigration options is always noteworthy. It should be noted that these regulatory changes appear to be exclusive to Labor matters. Thai immigration regulations have not changed with respect to the rules regarding visa extension in the Kingdom. At the present time a work permit appears to still be required for those wishing to remain in the Kingdom long term via a Thai business visa extension application.

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11th July 2016

In a previous posting on this blog the issue of single person incorporation of Thai companies was discussed. Back in September of 2015 it was revealed that the officials with government offices such as the Ministry of Commerce and the Department of Business Development were reviewing the possibility of amending the existing corporate laws in Thailand so as to allow an incorporated entity such as a limited company to be owned by one individual person. This would be similar to legislation in countries such as the United States which allows individuals, acting alone, to set up structures such as limited liability companies on their own.

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that some new developments have taken place with regard to this topic. To quote directly from the website of The Nation Newspaper:

THE Business Development Department has reviewed a new draft law and added in the document that a foreign individual cannot register a business in the Kingdom. The move aims to prevent |foreign enterprises from competing against Thais in many businesses that should be preserved for Thais. The original draft, known as “one person, one company,” states only that a single person can register a business in Thailand.

As readers of this blog and website may be aware there are many provisions enshrined in Thai law designed to protect Thai enterprises from foreign competition in Thailand. Most notable is the Foreign Business Act which specifically designates the type of business activities which are restricted to foreign nationals. As the website of Coconuts Bangkok noted:

This addition to the draft is designed to keep foreign businesses from competing against Thai companies in the long list of industries that the government has deemed reserved for Thai nationals only.

The aforementioned list of industries is detailed in the provisions of the Foreign Business Act. Currently, Thai law requires that a limited company have at least 3 shareholders in order to be registered pursuant to Thai law. This proposed law would change those provisions. It appears that Thailand would be the third country in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to adopt this type of change while Malaysia is apparently reviewing similar legislation.

The final draft of this proposed law remains to be seen, but it seems logical to assume that easing of corporate regulation of Thai company structures will result in increased business activity.

It should be noted that pursuant to the terms of the US-Thai Treaty of Amity, it is possible for American citizens to own virtually 100% of their companies in Thailand notwithstanding the provisions of the Foreign Business Act. It remains to be seen how these changes to the law will impact the registration of so called Amity Treaty Companies.

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5th November 2015

During the month of October 2015, it came to this blogger’s attention that the Thai government began to heavily enforce regulations against those overstaying their Thai visa and those utilizing nominees in order to control companies in Thailand. In a recent article on the Khaosod English website it was noted that more than 9000 people were arrested and detained pending deportation for overstaying their visas. The article went on to note:

The penalties announced Sunday are identical to regulations announced by the immigration bureau last year that have been in effect since Aug. 17, 2014. Foreign nationals who remain in the country more than 90 days after their visa expires are to be banned for one year. Those who overstay for one year, three years or five years are forbidden from re-entering the country for three years, five years and 10 years respectively. If they don’t turn themselves in and are instead caught by police, those who have overstayed less than a year would be blacklisted for five years while those with over a year face a 10-year ban…

The penalties referred to above were apparently applied to those detained in the aforementioned roundup and it would appear that such measures are likely to be applied to overstayers in the future. For this reason it is strongly recommended that those wishing to stay in Thailand obtain a visa and leave within the specified period of validity unless a Thai visa extension is obtained. There are many types of Thai visa categories including business visas, retirement visas, O visas for family members of Thai nationals, and the greatly anticipated long stay tourist visa which is set to begin being issued in mid-November.

Meanwhile, Thai officials in the Ministry of Commerce seem to be implementing stricter enforcement of rules regarding the use of nominee shareholders in Thai companies. Under the Foreign Business Act, foreign nationals are not permitted to use Thai nominee shareholders in order to circumvent the restrictions on foreign ownership of Thai companies. Those caught violating this law can face fines or possible imprisonment. Apparently, officials with the Department of Business Development will be investigating certain companies to determine if nominees are in use. To quote directly from The Nation:

The 10 sectors to be inspected are food and beverage, tourism, property rental, the property trade, car rental, spa, handicraft and souvenir retail, Internet retailing, direct sales, and education consultants. Chainarong said that those sectors would be targeted because it was believed that a high proportion of their businesses were foreign controlled through the use of Thai nominees…

Clearly Thai regulators are becoming increasingly serious regarding the enforcement of Thai law in both the realm of immigration and business. It should be noted that American Citizens are permitted to own 100% of certain types of Thai corporations pursuant to the provisions of the US-Thai Treaty of Amity.

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20th September 2015

In a recent article in the Bangkok Post it was reported that the current government in Thailand is taking measures to foster growth for small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Thailand. It would appear that the present government is eager to provide encouragement for small and medium sized businesses in Thailand. Furthermore it seems as though Thai officials are attempting to position the country as a location of choice for small business start-ups within the greater framework of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). However, of particular interest to this blogger was the mention of possible rule changes with regard to Thai corporate regulations pertaining to Thai Company registration and the shareholdings thereof. To quote the aforementioned article directly:

Mr Pongpun said the authorities were improving regulations on the incorporation of private companies to allow the incorporation of a juristic person registered by only one person.

At present, corporations (also referred to as juristic persons) in Thailand must have a minimum of three (3) shareholders in order to incorporate under Thai law. It should be noted that prior to an amendment to Thai corporate law at approximately the turn of the century it was required that all companies registered in Thailand have a minimum of 7 shareholders in order to incorporate pursuant to Thai law. Many at the time felt that the 7 shareholders requirement was too cumbersome and for that reason the statutorily required number of shareholders was reduced to 3. Since then, there have been those who have noted their belief that allowing Thai corporate structures with only one shareholder would bring Thai corporate law more in line with similar bodies of law globally. For example, in many American jurisdictions Limited Liability Companies or LLCs are only required to have one member/shareholder, while similar Limited Company (Ltd.) structures are allowed in Britain and the Commonwealth nations and many European jurisdictions allow for similar corporate structures as well.

It remains to be seen whether Thai corporate law will be amended to allow for single shareholder corporations in Thailand. It is a good sign that such structures are being considered by Thai officials especially since such structures would be especially beneficial to small business owners in Thailand. Of special note to American readers, pursuant to the provisions of the US-Thai Treaty of Amity it is possible for American Citizens to own 100% of an Amity company registered in Thailand. Should the aforementioned changes take place it could result in Americans being able to own their small business singularly without any Thai shareholders.

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1st September 2013

Many people living in Thailand establish corporate entities in order to conduct business in the Kingdom. This is no different for foreign nationals wishing to do business in Thailand. In the past, it was relatively easy for foreign nationals to set-up a Thai company. However, over the years the rules regarding corporate formation have grown increasingly complex as the business environment has evolved. At the same time, Thai officials have implemented policies which foster foreign investment (most notably recent regulations which have decreased the Thai corporate tax rate from 23% to 20%). All of these issues gain a new complexion when one considers the fact that as Thai laws regarding corporations have developed so too have the agreements creating the infrastructure which underlies the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

In the past, Thai authorities did not, in general, heavily scrutinize Thai companies with all Thai shareholders, even such entities having a foreign director. In fact, there was a time when simply maintaining a majority of Thai shareholders provided a degree of protection against substantial official examination. Thai partnerships (both limited and ordinary) were also somewhat immune from significant governmental oversight even where a foreign partner controlled a stake the firm. However, it should be noted that pursuant to the provisions of the Thai Foreign Business Act virtually all Thai business entities with a foreign majority ownership structure have been required to obtain either a Foreign Business License, a Treaty Certificate pursuant to the provisions of the US-Thai Treaty of Amity, or some other form of documentation showing either licensure from the Ministry of Commerce pursuant to Thai law or exemption based upon a Free Trade Agreement.

As of January 2013, a new policy regarding newly established Thai companies came into effect. Thai companies with any foreign directors must now prove that the registered capital has been paid into the company by the relevant shareholders. This is even the case where the company is wholly owned by Thai nationals. Furthermore, where a foreign national maintains 50% (or more) interest in a Thai partnership evidence must be provided showing paid up capital in the enterprise. Registered capital has always been an issue for Thai authorities, but it would now appear that the rules regarding registered capital will be applied more stringently especially where there is a foreign director or partner involved in the Thai company or partnership.

As the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is set to come into existence in 2015 and based upon the fact that Thailand has signed various international agreements pertaining to international trade and foreign direct investment there are some who argue that the time is quickly coming when Thai regulation of foreign run businesses will be liberalized. Until that time comes, the rules imposed upon foreigners setting up businesses in Thailand are likely to be more strictly enforced compared to times past.

For related information please see: Thailand Business Registration.

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16th August 2013

Recently, the Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand visited the United States of America and was welcomed by the American Secretary of State. Some of the remarks made in a press conference may be notable to those interested in American foreign policy and the relationship between the United States and Thailand. To quote directly from remarks made by Secretary of State John Kerry in a recent State Department press release:

I want to thank our friends in Thailand, who represent the longest security relationship, the longest partner that we have in Asia – 180 years of a treaty relationship with Thailand. They are our partner in the largest multinational field exercise that takes place in the region.

The Treaty noted above is the Treaty of Amity and Economic Relations Between the Kingdom of Thailand and the United States of America (sometimes colloquially referred to as the US-Thai Treaty of Amity). This Treaty could be viewed as an update of previous Treaty agreements made prior to the Amity Treaty’s ratification in 1966. The Treaty of Amity represents one of the best sources of legal protection for American Citizens and American Companies conducting business in Thailand as it provides “National Treatment” to American companies in Thailand. So long as American companies (or American owned Thai Companies) receive certification from the Thai Ministry of Commerce, they arre permitted to legally operate in Thailand notwithstanding the provisions of the Thai Foreign Business Act. There are some restrictions on the business activities which an Amity Company may undertake, but overall the Treaty is a significant boon to American businesses operating in Thailand.

The Treaty not only symbolizes strong Thai-American relations in the commercial sphere, it also is seen as a symbol of America’s long standing diplomatic and security relationship with the Kingdom of Thailand, as Secretary Kerry noted in the aforementioned quote. Thai Foreign Minister Dr. Surapong Tovichakchaikul also commented upon the close relationship between Thailand and the United States, citing a relatively recent visit to the Kingdom of Thailand by President Obama:

Last November, President Obama visited Thailand as his first stop in Southeast Asia after his reelection. His visit served to strengthen our strong partnership. My meeting with Secretary Kerry today will be a good chance to continue dialogue on our future partnership, especially as we mark 180 years of Thai-U.S. diplomatic relations this year.

Those wishing to read this press release in detail are encouraged to click HERE.

As the prospect of an integrated ASEAN Economic Community draws near, it stands to reason that the United States and Thailand will continue to maintain their close relations as Thailand will likely prove to be a significant participant in the pan-ASEAN economic bloc. This important role for Thailand within the ASEAN framework could also prove beneficial to American business in Thailand. Only time will tell.

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30th July 2013

In a previous posting on this blog regarding partnerships in Thailand, Thai Ordinary Partnerships and Thai Registered Ordinary Partnerships were discussed. There is another type of partnership structure in Thailand which may be more familiar to those from Western countries: the Thai Limited Partnership. Limited Partnerships have been a method of structuring an enterprise in jurisdictions such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Commonwealth nations for quite some time. Meanwhile, jurisdictions in the Eurpoean Union allow for similar structures. Thailand was a relatively late jurisdiction when it came to allowing for use of such structures, but now it may be possible for promoters of a business to form this type of partnership.

A Thailand limited partnership generally consists of, at a minimum, at least one Managing Partner who manages the business and at least one Limited Partner. Depending upon the unique circumstances of a given business enterprise there could be one or more managing partners and one or more limited partners. Although managing partners are personally liable for partnership debts, limited partners are not persoally liable for partnership debts and are only personally liable for the their capital contributions, especially if said contributions have been removed, in whole or in part, or if said contributions were never submitted. It should be noted that limited partners may lose some degree of their limited liability if the limited partner engages in the managment of the partnership or allows his or her name to be used in the Limited Partnership’s legal name. Limited Partnerships in Thailand must register their partnership agreement with the Ministry of Commerce in the same manner as a Registered Ordinary Partnership. As a general rule, Limited Partnerships are taxed in much the same manner as Registered Ordinary Partnerships.

Limited Partnerships which include a foreign national may be subject to the provisions stipulated in the Foreign Business Act. Therefore, where a foreign national owns a majority interest in a Thai Limited Partnership the Partnership may need to apply for a Thai Foreign Business License. However, American Citizens wishing to structure a limited partnership in Thailand may be eligible to obtain an Amity Treaty Certificate for the partnership pursuant to the terms of the US-Thai Treaty of Amity. If a foreign national owns simply a minority interest in a Thai limited partnership as a limited partner, then the partnership may not be required to obtain a foreign business license. However, the foreign national would not be able to manage the limited partnership.

Limited partnerships are able to be converted into limited companies so long as such conversion complies with relevant Thai corporate law.

For information regarding Thai Limited Companies please see: Company Registration Thailand.

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9th July 2013

Those researching business and corporate entities in Thailand (sometimes referred to as Thai juristic persons) often come upon information pertaining to Thai partnerships. Partnerships in the Kingdom of Thailand are different from Thai limited companies and Thai sole proprietorships for a number of reasons. For example, Thai limited companies provide the shareholders with limited liability. This means that liabilities incurred by a Thai limited company do not generally flow through to the individual shareholders (that said, under some circumstances, directors of Thai companies may have some legal liability to the company itself). Depending upon the type of Thai partnership, the partners may or may not have limited liability. Thai Partnerships differ from Thai Sole Proprietorships for a number of reasons, but the most obvious difference is that Thai Sole Proprietorships, as the name suggests, are operated by one natural person.

In the Kingdom of Thailand, there are different types of partnerships: Thai Ordinary Partnerships, Thai Registered Ordinary Partnerships, and Thai Limited Partnerships. In this posting only ordinary partnerships and registered ordinary partnerships will be discussed as Thai limited partnerships will be discussed in a later posting.

Thai Ordinary Partnerships

Thai ordinary partnerships are sometimes referred to as unregistered partnerships. The name “unregistered partnership” may stem from the fact that Thai ordinary partnerships are not required to have a written partnership agreement and even where a written partnership agreement exists it is not required that the aforementioned agreement be registered. That being stated, ordinary partnerships are still required to register their existence as a business entity with the Thai Ministry of Commerce. However, notwithstanding the fact that an ordinary partnership has registered with the Ministry of Commerce, this type of registration should not be construed to mean that the partnership is a Thai registered ordinary partnership. All partners in a Thai ordinary partnership have unlimited liability for the acts of any of the other partners which occur in the course of the partnership’s business. Creditors of an ordinary partnership may make claims against the property of any of the partners and do not need to first make a claim against the assets of the partnership.

Thai Registered Ordinary Partnerships

Thai Registered Ordinary Partnerships must be registered with the Ministry of Commerce in the Kingdom of Thailand. When registering this type of partnership a copy of the written partnership agreement, information regarding capital contributions as well as managerial duties of the partners, and objectives of the partnership must be included in the application for registration. In the eyes of Thai law, a registered ordinary partership is viewed as a distinct entity separate and apart from the partners. However, the legal distinction between the registered ordinary partnership and the partners as individuals should not be construed to mean that the partners have limited liability. That stated, if a claim is to be made by a creditor against a Registered Ordinary Parntership, then the creditor must first seek to make their claim against the assets of the Registered Ordinary Partnership before making a claim against either of the individual partner’s assets.

There are significant differences in the way in which registered ordinary partnerships and ordinary partnerships are taxed in the Kingdom of Thailand. Therefore, those interested in establishing either of these types of partnerships are encouraged to contact a legal professional in Thailand to ascertain whether either of these types of structures are suitable.

It should also be noted that foreign nationals wishing to set-up a Thai Registered Ordinary Partnership or a Thai Ordinary Partnership may be barred from doing so pursuant to the provisions of the Thai Foreign Business Act. In some cases, a Thai Foreign Business License may be obtained depending upon the type of business the foreign nationals wish to undertake through use of a Thai partnership. American citizens wishing to set-up a Thai partnership (either a registered ordinary partnership or simply an ordinary partnership) may obtain certification for their proposed partnership pursuant to the terms of the US-Thai Treaty of Amity, provided that the proposed business activity is not restricted under the terms of the Treaty; and, upon being approved for a Treaty certificate, operate their partnership notwithstanding the provisions of the Foreign Business Act.

For related information please see: Thailand Company Registration.

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28th June 2013

Limited Companies in the Kingdom of Thailand

Thai Limited Companies are somewhat similar to limited liability companies in jurisdictions such as the United States, the United Kingdom, or the European Union. However, there are certain formalities which must be adhered to in order to be certain that a Thai company is properly registered. First, a name for the company must be reserved and approved by the Thai Ministry of Commerce and then three shareholders must be utilized in order to meet the requirements for Thai company registration. Meanwhile, depending upon the type of business or the presence of possible future foreign employees certain capital requirements must be met (those wishing to register a Thai Limited Company are encouraged to ascertain the exact amount of capital necessary for a certain type of business before taking steps toward registration). Foreign nationals wishing to register a company in Thailand should note that some types of business are restricted under the provisions of the Foreign Business Act. It should be noted that usage of Thai nominee shareholders to hold shares of a Thai limited company on a foreign national’s behalf solely for the purpose of avoiding conflict with the provisions of the Foreign Business Act is strictly prohibited. American Citizens wishing to register a Thai company or American Companies wishing to set-up corporate offices in Thailand may be eligible to receive certification under the provisions of the US-Thai Treaty of Amity and therefore be in compliance with the Foreign Business Act and other applicable Thai law as companies with Treaty of Amity certification are accorded “National Treatment”.

An issue that may be of interest to those weighing the option of registering a company in Thailand: the corporate tax rate  for small companies making over one million baht per year has been reduced from 23% to 20% as of 2013, according to the official wesite of the Revenue Department in Thailand.

Sole Proprietorships in the Kingdom of Thailand

A sole proprietorship is defined as a business enterprise in which one natural person is the owner. It should be noted that sole proprietorships, unlike Thai limited companies or Thai limited partnerships, provide no limited liability to the owner and therefore the owner’s liability with respect to those conducting business with the sole proprietorship is unlimited.  There are some possible tax benefits arising from operating a sole proprietorship since the sole proprietor may be taxed progressively in much the same way as a natural person. In certain cases, a sole proprietor could opt to be taxed based upon gross receipts, minus a standardized deduction. However, those interested in this type of structure are well advised to contact professionals in order to ascertain further information about whether this type of structure can be utilized for one’s proposed business and the possible tax liabilities of such a proposition.

It should be noted that a sole proprietorship may not be feasible for most foreign nationals wishing to conduct business in Thailand pursuant to the provisions of the Foreign Business Act. It may be possible to obtain a foreign business license for a sole proprietorship in Thailand and thereby maintain compliance with the Foreign Business Act, but such licenses are examined on a case by case basis based upon the type of activity the sole proprietor wishes to conduct. For American Citizens it may be possible to obtain certification for a Thai sole proprietorship pursuant to the provisions of the US-Thai Treaty of Amity.

For related information please see: Thailand Company.



 

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3rd October 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the dynamics of Sino-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam) relations has been a topic of discussion. In order to provide further insight into these matters it is necessary to quote directly from the official website of Bernama at Bernama.com.my:

KUALA LUMPUR, October 3 (Bernama-AsiaNet) — The economic relation between China and the ASEAN is very close despite the territorial disputes in the South China Sea. The establishment of the China and ASEAN Free Trade Area creates the world’s largest free trade area that comprises developed countries and has 1.9 billion consumers, a GDP of nearly US$6 trillion and foreign trade totaling US$4.5 trillion…

This blogger asks readers to click upon the hyperlinks noted above to read this article in detail.

It would seem that many feel as though there will likely be further economic benefits derived from further economic cooperation between China and the countries which comprise ASEAN. In the context of specific countries, such as Thailand, this benefit may be further magnified by bilateral relations with the US. Thailand maintains a strong economic relationship with the United States as enshrined by the US-Thai Treaty of Amity. Bearing this in mind, the dynamics of Asian economics is subtle and multifaceted. That stated, there are many indications that the economies of Asia will continue to economically thrive in the future.

In news pertaining to travel matters in the United States it recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been recently analyzed for what appears to have been an invasive pat down of a woman who had been afflicted with breast cancer. In order to provide further information regarding this situation it is necessary to quote directly from a posting by Lori Dorn via Boing Boing on the website Gizmodo.com:

Lori Dorn, the wife of Laughing Squid’s Scott Beale, recently submitted to a backscatter scan at JFK airport. The TSA pulled her aside for a breast patdown, even though she stated she had breast implants in place after her bilateral mastectomy. Of course, that didn’t stop them. They didn’t even let her take out the Device Identification Card that would could have explained where the implants came from and their medical purpose. No. Instead they humiliated her in public…

The administration of this web log strongly encourages readers to click upon the aforementioned hyperlinks to read more from this interesting article.

In this blogger’s mind, there is no question that security should be a concern for travelers both in the US and abroad. However, usage of the term “security” as an umbrella term to allow for the humiliation of a breast cancer survivor seems rather draconian especially in light of the fact that the woman in question apparently had a Device Identification Card for just such occasions seems perplexing, to say the least. Hopefully measures will be taken to provide some sort of protection for travelers with disabilities so as to address safety concerns while simultaneously preventing humiliation while traveling.

– Benjamin Walter Hart

For information pertaining to legal services in Southeast Asia please see: Legal.

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